54th Annual National Polka Festival May 22-24, 2020 Ennis, Texas
The National Polka Festival® in Ennis, Texas invites everyone to come help celebrate 54 wonderful years of Czech heritage festivities Fri. through Sun., May 22-24. Held annually on Memorial Day Weekend, the National Polka Festival offers an abundance of activities to be enjoyed by the entire family in a friendly, small-city atmosphere.
This year’s fest will feature 14 polka bands including Grammy-level bands Brave Combo and Alex Meixner.
POLKA ON, Y’ALL!
For the last nine years, polkabeat. com has been proud to sponsor the Thursday night Polka On! festival preparty. "It's a great way to get the party started," said Michelle Slovak, NPF secretary, and member of Czech & Then Some, the featured band at the pre-party. CATS will be playing tunes from their new recording Better with Age: Celebrating 20 Years. The Polka On! Pre-Party begins at 7 pm in the KJT Bar. "There's no cover charge. Just plenty of great music, cold beer, and fun Polka On! free stuff," said Theresa Parker, publisher of polkabeat.com and the Texas Polka News.
34 YEARS OF KINGS & QUEENS
The festival kicks off with an opening dance Friday at 7 pm at the Sokol Hall, featuring polka music by the Texas Dutchmen, who is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a band. The festival will celebrate 34 years of the King and Queen Dance Contest as couples compete for the 2020 royal titles. Last year's contest was won by Louis Stewart of Moulton and Elaine Rosquist of Loveland, Colorado. The dance contest was started by Ennis natives Johnnie I. and Margaret Krajca and has proved to be one of the most popular features of the festival.
I LOVE A PARADE!
One of the first duties of the new king and queen is to ride a float in the parade that starts at 10 am on Saturday. Ennis streets become filled with floats, bands, and colorful costumes to kick off the downtown festivities. The parade traditionally includes something for visitors of all ages. Enjoy the music of some of the polka bands riding floats or the sounds of the award-winning Ennis High School Marching Band.
The Shriners make their annual appearance, as well as celebrities, public officials, motorcycles, horseback riders, clowns, kids, and seniors! This giant parade twists through historic downtown Ennis and is sure to please. Throughout Saturday and Sunday downtown, visit the many shopping and food vendors, grab a partner for the street dances in Pivo Pavilion, and sign up for the kolache-eating contest on Saturday at 1 pm.
KBEC POLKA PARTY
On Sunday, another festival tradition continues as Danny Zapletal will broadcast his Polka Party Show on KBEC (Waxahachie) from 9-11 am. For more than 48 years, Johnnie I. Krajca hosted the show and started the live broadcast at the first NPF in 1967. The festival committee worked with Johnnie to bring the live broadcast back to the festival in 2005. Danny has continued the tradition with the KBEC Polka Party. This year, it will be held at KC Hall and Dujka Brothers will provide the music.
SOAK UP CZECH CULTURE
The National Polka Festival gives you the chance to experience Czech traditions, religious customs, dancing, tastes, sights, sounds, and "a little bit of the Czech Lands" throughout historic downtown and at the three spacious air-conditioned halls (KJT, Knights of Columbus, and Sokol Halls). Enjoy a weekend of polka dancing, Czech food, and 14 sensational polka bands.
One daily admission includes all three halls: Friday - $9; Saturday - $14; Sunday - $11. Three-day pass is $30 and kids 12 & under are admitted free. Another popular attraction in the last few years is a country concert, which this year will be held at the Sokol Hall on Saturday night featuring Randall King with special guest Jessie Jennings. Admission to this event is separate from the polka fest admission.
No need to drive from venue to venue. You can ride the free shuttle buses from downtown to all three fraternal halls.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
The National Polka Festival in Ennis, Texas began as an idea. Raymond Zapletal, Len Gehrig, and Joe Liska of Ennis had visited other cities and had seen the large response to polka bands from the people of Czech descent. They believed people could be brought to their small town of Ennis for the same reason. So in 1967, the trio brought the idea to Chamber of Commerce Manager Jack McKay. Jack agreed the festival could greatly benefit Ennis and the Czech community in the area, and one of the largest polka festivals in the country was born.
Raymond, Len, and Joe agreed to take care of getting the bands for Ennis' fraternal halls and the Chamber agreed in turn to organize the parade and downtown festivities. Within three years the festival was a raging success with as many as 30,000 people attending from all over the country to enjoy music, food, and entertainment.
"Our festival continues in tradition and style similar to those early celebrations," said Michelle, whose father, Raymond, was one of the founders. “The festival has taken years of work from the Polka Festival Committee, Ennis Chamber of Commerce, and the Ennis Convention & Visitors Bureau, and all of our volunteers," she said.
Thanks to the work of these teams, this festival today is one of the largest of its kind in the United States attracting as many as 50,000 people.