Thousands Dance the Weekend Away at the International Polka Festival

The Festival Has Been Going On for 39 Years

HINCKLEY, Minn.- Florian Chmielewski picked up an accordion more than 70 years ago, and discovered his love for Polka Music.

“I only knew 4 songs and my neighbor come over and asked if I could play for his wedding and I said, ‘no I only know 4 songs’ and he said ‘just play them over, that’s fine,'” remembers Florian.

In fact, that love was so strong, he created The International Polka Festival, where other music enthusiasts could come together and dance to their favorite songs. This year not only marked the festival’s 39th birthday, but also Florian’s 90th one.

“He’s been on the road I tell ya, playing for 72 years, that accordion, and bringing happy music to people,” says Pati Chmielewski, Florian’s daughter.

The festival is now run by his daughter Pati Chmielewski and her partner Michael Bell.

“I think polka music is infectious, it’s just wonderful, it brings happy smiles and that’s what polka music is all about. It’s just happy, happy music,” says Pati.

The festival is something many of the attendees look forward to each year, and this year more than 3,000 people turned out for a good time.

“It’s hard to frown when you’re Polka dancing and snapping your fingers and tapping your toes and people love it,” says Michael.

Though polka music is popular among the older crowd, it’s a genre that’s loved by many generations.

“I think it’s pretty cool it’s something that’s not very popular anymore but I’m glad I get to know what it is, cause a lot of my friends don’t even know it exists,” says Kati Chmielewski, Pati’s daughter.

“I’m driving to Cleveland next weekend 12 hours to go to one of the biggest Polka fests in the country,” says Nick Chmielewski, Kati’s brother.

For the Chmielewski family, Polka music is not just a shared hobby. It’s a tradition. One they hope to continue for years to come.

“This has been passed down through the generations from the 1890’s I’m the fourth generation, my children are the fifth,” says Pati. “I’d love to keep it there for everyone so that everyone can listen and be happy, just like we’ve brought it through our family, and continue through the heritage of Polka music.”

 

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