40th Annual South Texas Polka & Sausage Fest
If the March that came in like a lion is leaving like a lamb, that means it’s time for the South Texas Polka and Sausage Fest in Hallettsville, Texas! The Hallettsville KC Hall, on US 77 South, will be the site of much food, fun, fellowship, music, and with a touch of religion for the weekend. The Knights of Columbus Council #2433 has been preparing for weeks to show folks how the Hallettsville people can throw a party.
Friday, March 22, the fun and food kicks off at 5 pm with a fish fry and a double dance with The Czechaholics and The Moravians playing for your dancing pleasure. Saturday’s events start at 3 pm with a Polka Mass. This Mass is special as it is performed in the KC Hall. This means that the pageantry of the ceremony with the Knights of Columbus in full uniform during the service will be showcased in the center of the floor. The hymns will be accompanied by a variety of polka musicians giving the universal ceremony a Central Texas musical twist.
Immediately following the Mass, a sausage supper with all the trimmings will be served. The KCs will give you a few minutes to digest the sumptuous meal before another double dance with the Dujka Brothers and the Jodie Mikula Orchestra swapping off musical sets as you work off that extra kolache that you had with supper.
Sunday morning kicks off at 10:30 am with a meal of sausage and fried chicken with all the trimmings including chicken noodle soup. For a dinner theatre experience everyone’s favorite conglomerate of polka musicians, The Shiner Hobos, will be playing for your dining and dancing pleasure, followed up by a triple dance featuring the Ennis Czech Boys, The Red Ravens, and Fritz Hodde’s Fabulous Six playing their hearts out for their fans. At 4:30 that afternoon is the Polka Jam Session where over 30 musicians join together on stage for a joyous sound that will cover all of South Texas.
HALL OF FAME
The festival, now in its 40th year, has become such a tradition (2,000+ attendees last year) that a Hall of Fame has been founded for prominent supporters and musicians. This year’s inductees will be the Wence Shimek Orchestra, for former musical contributions, Fritz Hodde & Fabulous Six, for present musical contributions, and the Pavliska Brothers, Bobby and Henry, along with Henry’s widow, Linda. The Pavliska family are being honored as outstanding festival supporters. The induction ceremonies will be held at 2 pm Sunday.
RV spaces are available at the KC Hall and the Hallettsville Chamber of Commerce has other lodging information for the area. Come on down for a real small-town experience
the 4th weekend of March to dance, eat, and laugh.
2019 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
The South Texas Polka & Sausage Fest was the brainchild of three dedicated Knights of Columbus members: Henry Pavliska, his brother, Bobby Pavliska, and musician Wence
Shimek. They felt that with the deep Czech and German heritages in the Hallettsville area, a Polka Fest would be a unique project for the Council. Proceeds from the one-day festival
would go to the Sacred Heart Athletic Program.
In the beginning, it was called a sausage festival, however by 1983, the festival had become popular enough to expand to two days of food and music and became known as the South Texas Polka & Sausage Festival. By the early 2000s, the Friday night fish fry was added for the observers of Lent. The Wence Shimek Orchestra, The City Polka Boys, and the Red Ravens played at the 1983 fest.
WENCE SHIMEK ORCHESTRA
Family tradition and involvement is what makes the polka and waltz music world go around. One of the best orchestras in Central Texas that represented this sentiment was the Wence Shimek Orchestra of Hallettsville. Wence’s father, a first-generation Texas Czech, was an accordionist that had heard the ways of the old country played. Wence picked up the old-world sound and kept honing his skills on several instruments. He joined the legendary Rudy Kurtz Orchestra and played their intensive schedule getting better and better on saxophone, accordion, and guitar.
While enriching his musical life, his personal life was also being enriched. You see, Rudy Kurtz had a cute daughter, Helen, who also played in the band. When the time
was right, Wence and Helen were married. When Rudy finally retired in 1965 after 43 years, Wence and Helen took over the band, renaming it Wence Shimek and the All Star Sounds but became known as the Wence Shimek Orchestra.
Wence (sax, accordion, guitar) and Helen (piano) along with Louis Niemann (trumpet and sax), Paul Janak (bass), and Patrick Pokluda (drums) took over the scheduled
dates and started adding more. When Louis passed away in 1986 (60 years of music), Daniel Malik (former Joe Patek member) filled in. By this time, Wence and Helen’s children were of the age to try their hand at music. Dennis learned steel guitar and now plays with Texas Sound Czech and others. Tom, Nick, Kathy, Stanley, and Marty (was the fact that they had 13 kids mentioned?) were all members of the orchestra at one time or another. Daughter, Ann, joined the church and as Sister Ann Frances teaches music. Marty (and his son, Dustin) are performing with Los Kolaches, a popular local band.
The Shimek Orchestra continued the Kurtz ambition by playing wherever there was a paying gig. They journeyed many times to the Czech colony in San Angelo. They were regulars at Martinez Hall in San Antonio, and the Bill Mraz Ballroom in Houston. They performed at dance halls in Victoria, East Bernard, Weesatche, Shiner, Freyburg, Danbury, and Schroeder to name a few. The Czech lodges in Corpus, Taylor, the Temple area, Corn Hill, and Elgin were familiar with the dancing sound of the Wence Shimek Orchestra. However, there was one place they loved performing the most and that was St. Mary’s Parish near their home in Hallettsville. This was playing among family and close friends; this is where Wence wrote the lyrics to the Memories Waltz, which was dedicated to Helen. It was their first gig in 1965 and their last in 1986.
Wence and Helen had their own polka radio show for over 20 years. If you ever passed through Hallettsville in Lavaca County, there was a good chance that you might
have heard them on the radio or saw their recordings for sale in numerous businesses. For their dedication to polka they were recognized at the El Campo Polka Festival and in 1991
the Texas Polka Music Association award them the Lifetime Achievement Award.
FRITZ HODDE &THE FABULOUS SIX
The Hodde musical legacy began in a blackland-prairie town named Cele, southwest of Taylor. The social center was the Richland Saloon, (est. 1891). In 1951 the Weiss family managed it and sold gasoline and basic food items including beer. The Weiss families were musicians and their weekly jam sessions at the store invited other folks to come sit in and play. Lorenz (“Boots”) Hodde, on banjo, and his uncle, Fritz Wendland, on guitar, were regulars; joining them was Lorenz’s son, 12-year-old Fritz Hodde, on guitar. The many jam sessions paid off with Lorenz forming a small combo in 1963 that went by the name of Boots and His Buddies.
The first “professional” gig came at a family reunion, followed by live performance on a Georgetown radio station. This free publicity increased their bookings and in 1965, A.J. Zrubek, a band member, suggested the name Fritz Hodde and His Fabulous Six. Fritz’s talents soon extended to the trumpet and accordion and mastering Czech vocals. Fritz’s family was growing, and a son, Scott, at the age of nine began keeping rhythm with a pair of spoons to his dad’s music. His persistence convinced his dad to buy him a button accordion to learn the songs and in 1990 Scott formally joined the band. Father and son were playing as only blood relations can with Scott complementing Dad’s sound with his
saxophone, accordion, trumpet, and drumming skills. When the time was right, Scott married Diane Pavelka (an accomplished accordionist) and a son, Brandon, was born. Being raised at picnics and festivals, the music seeped into Brandon and triggered his musical genes.
At the age of 12, Brandon became a full-fledged member of his grandfather’s band. He started on drums, learned the saxophone, accordion, guitar, and has learned
the steel guitar to fill out the country songs. Forming the back line of Fritz’s band are the experienced Russell Kalkbrenner on bass guitar and keyboards. Gary Greener, one of Brandon’s friends, is on drums and bass guitar when Russell is playing keyboards.
The Hodde family has recorded many CDs and tapes over the years which are available wherever they perform. The latest is Fritz Hodde’s 50-Year Journey with The Fabulous 6, released a few years ago.
Brandon’s perspective on playing reflects the Hodde family spirit: “I do it because I love it. When you’re on stage, particularly with my dad and grandfather, there’s not a feeling like it on earth, the bonding on stage with other musicians.”
Read about more festivals and church picnics in the Spring & Summer Fest Guide.