Calling all polka lovers who want to immerse themselves in the music and food of the Polish and Slovenian cultures.
The 22nd annual PolkaFest will be held May 31 through June 2 at St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church pavilion, 411 Power St., Cambria City, Johnstown.
The event is hosted by Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau and St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church.
“Just like there’s national acts of pop music, there is as well in the polka world of music. I look for the top bands and the bands that are playing across the country and at all the main events,” said Jayne Korenoski, CVB’s director of advertising and sales.
“Some of these bands have been consistent over the years and have remained the top bands in the country and are who people look for.”
She said she also looks at bands that would attract a younger crowd.
“There is no admission fee to PolkaFest, so as a result, a lot of younger people will come to the event to have some beers and eat and meet with friends, but then they listen to this music and they see the caliber of artists that we have,” Korenoski said.
“Many will ask us to bring some of these bands back because they loved them.”
A new addition to this year’s festival is Buffalo, New York-based The Knewz, which plays many original songs, covers of country and rock songs and also traditional Polish polkas, obereks and waltzes.
“They are a group of all-star musicians who over the years played in other bands,” Korenoski said.
“They are really good and a nice addition.”
The festival kicks off from 4:30 to 10 p.m. May 31 with Rosie and the Jammers, Don Wojtila Orchestra and the Polka Family Band.
“The Don Wojtila Orchestra is a demand band because they don’t play in this area very often,” Korenoski said.
“Don tells me that they love coming to Johnstown and playing.”
From noon to 10 p.m. June 1, featured acts will be Johnstown Area Button Box Club, Box On Band, Don Wojtila Orchestra, Polka Family Band and Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push.
“Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push is a Grammy-nominated group, and the music is just consistently good,” Korenoski said.
“Many people wanted me to bring Box On Band back this year because they loved listening to the family.”
The festival continues from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 2. An outdoor polka Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. June 2 under the pavilion.
“This is a really nice outdoor Mass, and The Knewz will perform at the Mass,” Korenoski said.
“It’s amazing how many people attend. We print off several hundred Mass sheets and they are all gone.”
Box On Band also is scheduled to perform.
PolkaFest also features ethnic and regular craft and food vendors, including jewelry and baked goods.
“St. Mary’s kitchen will be open all weekend, and they have been preparing food for months,” Korenoski said.
“There’s also a variety of food vendors up and down the street.”
Admission to the festival and parking are free.
Proceeds from T-shirts sales and 50/50 tickets will be put back into the festival fund to keep it a free event.
Along with attracting locals, the festival also draws people from across the state as well as Ohio, New York, Maryland and Michigan.
“We have people who come back every year and this is their vacation,” Korenoski said.
“This is family-friendly, and the food prices are affordable. It’s a quality event, where people come and they dance and mingle.”
She added that you don’t have to be a diehard polka enthusiast to enjoy the festival.
“This festival has such a great atmosphere and the music is top-notch from these talented bands,” Korenoski said.
“So many people tell us that they come to PolkaFest because it brings back memories of their family who listened to polkas. Plus, people dance. The dance floor for polka music is continually full.”
Power Street and Fifth Avenue will be closed to accommodate the festival, but parking will be available on other streets and at the church parking lot.
For more information, call 814-536-7993 or visit www.visitjohnstownpa.com/polkafest.