PolkaFest 2018

Dolly Warnick and George Kuzmiak of Johnstown dance during Johns-town’s 21st annual PolkaFest on Friday in Cambria City.

PolkaFest will be back this year, just at a different location.

It was originally canceled when St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, which hosts the event on its grounds in Cambria City, did not feel it had enough volunteers to meet imminent deadlines for preparing foods, while concerns existed about holding a gathering during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But, on Tuesday, Visit Johnstown, a co-host, announced PolkaFest will now be held on June 4-5 at Peoples Natural Gas Park, located in downtown Johnstown.

“I think it will work out well for us for this year,” Visit Johnstown Executive Director Lisa Rager said.

PNG Park was available on the same dates PolkaFest was scheduled to take place at St. Mary’s. Johnstown Area Heritage Association is renting the facility to Visit Johnstown for this year, but not joining as a partner.

“We’re glad to provide a temporary home for this event. … I think the location of that event (St. Mary’s) is part of its charm,” said Shelley Johansson, JAHA’s director of marketing and communications. “But I certainly understand that they weren’t comfortable with it this year, given the circumstances of the pandemic. So we’re glad that the timing worked out because that’s another thing that was kind of critical.”

A temporary 39x30-foot teak wooden dance floor will be installed. Merchandise and food vendors will also be onsite, including some providing ethnic foods, according to Rager.

The musical lineup is still being finalized, but it already includes five-time Grammy nominee Lynn Marie & E3 from Nashville, Tennessee, with Eddie Rodick and Friends and four-time Grammy nominee The Polka Family Band.

“It will be an excellent lineup, no doubt,” Rager said.

PolkaFest was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, as was Thunder in the Valley, the city’s annual motorcycle rally that is also hosted by Visit Johnstown.

Plans are underway to hold this year’s Thunder in the Valley from June 24-27.

“We have a lot to do this year because more of the operation of things (for PolkaFest) falls on the shoulders of Visit Johnstown and our staff and volunteers here,” Rager said. “We’re just kind of really working super hard and working on getting this event back together again with some news twists, and then also just working on the plans for Thunder so we can get things locked down.”

Visit Johnstown representatives expect to meet with city officials soon to continue discussions about putting on Thunder in the Valley.

“We’re planning to proceed, but if we have to make any modifications to anything, that will be determined by whatever mitigation might still be in place at that time,” Rager said. “We’re hopeful to move forward with our entertainment, concerts and pretty much the same schedule. We’re going to have some changes in our venues. Our goal is to have it look pretty much like it has in the past, but probably scaled back a little bit.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5056. Follow him on Twitter {a style=”font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif;” href=”http://twitter.com/dave_sutor” target=”_blank”}@Dave_Sutor{/a}.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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