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International Polka Assn. goes virtual for this weekend's annual Festival/Convention


International Polka Association

Like every other festival, The International Polka Association’s (IPA) 52nd IPA Festival and Convention, slated to be held in Buffalo Sept. 4-6, had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But all is not lost: Starting Friday and running through Sunday, the first-ever IPA Virtual Festival is offering performances by top polka bands along with additional polka entertainment and enlightenment—not to mention the Virtual 2019 Music Award Ceremony. The event can be streamed live via Facebook and YouTube, and viewers can interact through the chat function at the IPA website.

Live performers will include Steve Meisner, Dynabrass, Tony Blazonczyk’s New Phaze, and the IPA Tribute Band. Also on the schedule are interviews with IPA Hall of Fame inductees, polka game shows, a polka Mass celebrated by IPA Chaplain Father Dennis Bogusz and featuring The Kosmix, and live streaming on the 24-hour Polka Jammer Network (PJN) nonprofit Internet radio station, on which the Chicago-based IPA has a weekly Saturday afternoon program.

“Normally over labor day weekend we host our annual festival and convention,” says IPA president Christy Krawisz. “This year was our 52nd anniversary, and we had plans to celebrate in Buffalo like we have for over six years—but due to COVID-19 and all of the restrictions, we are unfortunately unable to do so.”

In June, then, Krawisz instituted a “Plan B” committee to strategize a virtual IPA Festival, in case the festival had to be canceled.

“Thank God I did! We were already ahead of the game when our festival was canceled on July 1st. We had so many ideas on what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do them, but again, Illinois has restrictions as well, and that is where our corporate offices are and a majority of our Board members. Luckily, one of our board members owns his own company, and we’re using his warehouse to have some local bands--as well as a band from Wisconsin and Ohio--and we are able to have live music, but with only the bands and board members in attendance because of the COVID-19 restrictions. But we’ll be going live on Facebook and YouTube starting Friday!”

Krawisz says that each day during the 15 minutes prior to the live feed, a slideshow presentation of all the IPA Hall of Fame inductees from 1969 to now will be screened. A 2020 Virtual Hall of Fame Ceremony is set for Friday at 5:45 p.m. (Central), to induct East Coast polka promoter/programmer Bill Shibilski, independent record company president/producer David Zychowski, musician/broadcaster Rick Rzeszutko, the late Tony “Krew” Krupski of the Krew Brothers Band, and the late “old-time” polka bandleader/trombonist Ellsworth “Babe” Wagner. All will be inducted formally at next year’s 53rd IPA Festival and Convention.

“Throughout the weekend we will have interviews with these Hall of Fame Inductees, and for those that are deceased, family member,” continues Krawisz. “We will also have interviews with past Hall of Fame inductees as well as an interview with past Female Vocalist Award-winner Dee Dee Ogrodney and her son Ryan Joseph—who is now the fiddler with Country Music Hall of Famer Alan Jackson.”

On Saturday at 3:30 p.m., the IPA will stage a Virtual 2019 Music Award Ceremony, with recipients including Stacey Morris (Favorite Polish Style Female Vocalist), John Gora (Favorite Polish Style Male Vocalist), John Gora and Gorale’s My Polish Roots & Beyond (Favorite Polish Style Album), John Gora and Gorale’s “Walentyna” (Favorite Polish Style Song), John Gora and Gorale (Favorite Polish Style Band), Lynn Marie Hrovat-Rodick (Favorite International Style Female Vocalist), Ted Lange (Favorite International Style Male Vocalist), Gary’s Ridgeland Dutchmen’s Smiles are Made Out of Sunshine (Favorite International Style Album), Gary’s Ridgeland Dutchmen’s “Snuggle with Me Polka” (Favorite International Style Song), Squeezebox (Favorite International Style Band), and Robbie Piatkowski (Leon Kozicki Trustee’s Award).

On Sunday at 7:45 p.m., IPA will announce the winner of its First Young Songwriters competition, and will showcase the top four songwriters via web conferencing.

Besides the live performers, prerecorded music will be streamed from the likes of Lenny Gomulka and the Chicago Push, Jimmy Sturr, Polka Country Musicians, The Boys Band, Maestro’s Men, Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones, The Kosmix, Fred Ziwich, FreezeDried, Lynn Marie and Eddie Rodick III, and Polish Connection.

The International Polka Association is a nonprofit whose purpose is the advancement of polka music. According to Krawisz, numerous IPA Virtual Festival watch parties are in the works, while lifetime IPA member Linda Louie has designed over 30 t-shirts commemorating the event and promoting polka music, with all proceeds benefiting the organization.

“We are so extremely excited for this event!” says Krawisz. “The committee has been working so hard putting it all together, and I know everyone will enjoy it.”

She concludes: “We’re doing this because we care about polka music. We have such a love and passion for it, and we care for and appreciate our polka fans--whom we consider family. We all do it for the love of the music.”

The Buffalo Touch performs at the 2019 International Polka Association Festival & Convention pool party at the Millennium Hotel in Buffalo, NY.

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