© Herald file photo
Shine up your dancing shoes in preparation for the 11th annual Prince Albert Polkafest at the Exhibition Centre this weekend.
Shine up your dancing shoes in preparation for the Prince Albert Polkafest this weekend.
The 11th annual Prince Albert Polkafest starts this Friday, with the doors opening at 6 p.m.
“We have a full weekend of activities, lots of music, lots of different dances,” one of the organizers Lawrence Bodnar said.
Friday night, the dancing will start at 7 p.m., with the Dennis Nykolation Band from Winnipeg and the Dan Schira Band from Prince Albert.
The next day, the doors will open at 1 p.m., with music by the Dennis Nykolation Band again, as well as the Phoenix Band and the Hamps Band.
“Instead of coming to a dance with one band, we have four bands,” Bodnar said. “Plus, we have more music on Sunday.”
On Sunday, there will be a pancake breakfast, starting at 9 a.m., complete with live music provided by Rev. Rick Martin Gospel Music, the Dan Schira Band and the Polkafest Jam Band.
“These are all local people who donate their time,” Bodnar said. “Last year we had over 300 for our breakfast and Rick Martin does an awesome job. He has been there from day one.”
The Polkafest Jam Band is a unique group, made up of many different artists, Bodnar said.
“Some will be accordion, some will be violin -- it is a real selection of instrumentals,” Bodnar said.
The main point of Polkafest is a lot of music and a lot of dancing, which is why there are so many different bands playing over the weekend.
“The Polkafest is all about music,” Bodnar said. “When you mention polkafest, people need to keep in mind it is not just polka, but all types of dancing -- waltzes, two-step, modern rock -- there is a little bit of everything.”
This year, dancing will only run until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday instead of midnight. In total, there will be 17 hours of dancing, Bodnar said.
Polkafest is not only for Prince Albert residents -- there are many people who follow the Polkafest circuit across the province.
“There are people coming from all over,” Bodnar said. “There are people from British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba who follow the Polkafest circuits. There are 21 or 22 Polkafests in Saskatchewan, they start in April and go until November.”
Much like the Prince Albert Polkafest, which is a fundraiser for the exhibition centre, polkafests in other communities are also fundraisers for different organizations, Bodnar said.
“We planted the seed for out Polkafest 11 years ago,” Bodnar said. “It took a while to get it started. No one knew what it was all about.”
It has been a huge hit in the city since its inception. Bodnar said they continue to do research to find out what people like and to keep it a popular event. He has even visited other polkafests to get new ideas.
When the folks aren’t dancing, Bodnar said, many are catching up with old friends who also follow the Polkafest circuit.
“A lot of people who follow the circuit, it is kind of like a reunion,” Bodnar said. “They will maybe go to one Polkafest and then say see you at the next one. They all sit at one table.”
He said for the regular fans, as well as the new faces, they strive to find the best bands and make it an excellent experience.
“It is nice to see those happy faces and it is almost like a stress free weekend for the people who come,” Bodnar said. “It is their Polkafest -- we are just hosting it.”
They are expecting more than 1,000 people to congregate at the Exhibition Centre during the three days.
“Last year, the Saturday was a sold-out Polkafest and it was our 10th anniversary,” Bodnar said. “We are expecting over 1,000 people -- We really like to make Prince Albert one of the destinations to bring people in our city and, of course, people who have never been to our city who might want to venture out and see the lakes and our great city.”
After dancing the night away, many folks will have to fuel up at the Polkafest Diner, which is run by volunteers.
“We have home-cooked food, which is great,” Bodnar said. “We have all home-cooked food made by the ladies. We have a brand new menu this year. We try to encourage people to come out right when the doors are open and the food is available.”
This year, the menu features have rice with sweet and sour meatballs, stew with bread, perogies with onions or mushroom sauce, homemade chicken noodle soup, Caesar salad and a vegetable tray.
“We have a really good selection -- rather than just hamburgers and hot dogs there is actually a full meal type of thing or do partial side plates,” Bodnar said. “People can choose what they like to eat.”
Polkafest goers can also camp right at the exhibition grounds, Bodnar added.
“Our motto is our home is their home so you can come and bring your camper or stay for the whole weekend,” Bodnar said. “We have a full service RV area on site and within walking distance of the Exhibition Centre. Then we have dry camping. Everything is very close and right on the exhibition grounds.”
Of course, the Polkafest wouldn’t be possible without the help of their large volunteer base.
“Our great volunteers are the backbone of the Polkafest,” Bodnar said. “We have 40 to 45 volunteers per night to run it. They are the most amazing people you could work with. Some give their entire weekend to be there.”
Bodnar encourages everyone to come out to the event and dance the nights away.
“We are keeping it a friendly atmosphere and a family-oriented event,” Bodnar said. “It is a weekend full of good entertainment, good music, a lot of good home-cooked food and a lot of fellowship. We encourage people to be themselves and have fun.”
Tickets are available at the Exhibition Centre, the Prince Albert Music Centre or Val’s Floral Boutique.