The National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum mourns the passing of
Chairman Emeritus and co-founder Tony Petkovsek. Tony brought new life to the Cleveland-Style
Polka. Just when polka music seemed played out, young Tony arrived on the scene in
1961 with a daily radio show that revived America's good-time sound. He inspired
new and classic bands to record albums. His polka tours brought attention to Slovenia
and took the happy music around the world. Tony's Thanksgiving polka weekends still
attract a thousand fans. His music events and causes made him an important community
Tony grew up on Addison Road in the shadow of Cleveland's Slovenian National Home.
He listened to the polka bands, juke box and radio playing in his father's tavern,
the Birch Bar. Tony was surrounded by music and dreamed of becoming a disc jockey
on the radio. When he was fresh out of broadcasting school, Tony was invited by radio
host Rudy Menart to join his Slovenian show. FM radio was new and gave more air time
for polka and nationality programs. Tony soon went solo with his own polka program
and took the lead in revitalizing the Cleveland-Style scene.
He began his show in 1961, playing polka and Slovenian music for two hours a day,
six days a week. He was a major promoter of the polka genre. Tony featured classic
Cleveland-Style polkas and waltzes by established performers, such as Johnny Vadnal,
Johnny Pecon, Eddie Habat, Kenny Bass and Frank Yankovic, America's Polka King, but
he also encouraged young bands and introduced new songs. His shows included album
debuts, opinion call-ins, on-location shows, interviews and contests and even recipes
with Alice Kuhar and news from Slovenia with Duke Marsic. Tony introduced the new
folk sound from Slovenia by groups like the Avsenik Quintet and the Lojze Slak Trio.
Beginning in 1963, his Thanksgiving Day dance expanded into one of the country's
largest polka weekend festival.
Nationality pride and low airfares inspired Tony to lead the first polka tour in
1967 with the Richie Vadnal Orchestra. He partnered with Kollander Travel and top
polka bands to take the happy sound around the world, from Slovenia, Croatia and
Europe, to exotic destinations, such as Hawaii, Australia and China. Thousands were
able to rediscover their ethnic roots. Tony also hosted American concert tours of
leading bands from Slovenia, such as the Slak Trio. Tony's Polka Village opened in
1971 with a radio booth, record shop and a music studio with veteran performer Frank
Novak teaching the diatonic accordion during the craze for button box that Tony touched
He emerged as an important figure on the nationality scene and in Cleveland civic
circles. Tony was also instrumental in creating the Old World Festival, the United
Slovenian Society and the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum.
In 1991, when Slovenia declared independence, his radio marathons for United Americans
for Slovenia, encouraged listeners to phone into the White House to demand U. S.
recognition of the fledgling democracy. He was inducted into the National Broadcasters
Hall of Fame in 1991.
His sincerity, his dedication to the polka and nationality communities, and his gift
for helping us reconnect with our nationality roots, will be greatly missed by everyone.
Tony will lie in state at the Slovenian National Home, 6409 St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland,
Friday, February 22, from 3:00 to 8:00. The next day, Saturday, February 23, there
will be a Mass of Christian Burial at noon at St. Vitus Church, 6019 Lausche Avenue,
Ida Yankovic of Greensburg, passed away at age 84 at Westmoreland Hospital. Ida was
born in Herminie, Pennsylvania. While she spent most of her life in Scottdale. Ida
also made homes in Cleveland, Ohio and New Port Richey, Florida. Later in life, Ida
remarried "America's Polka King," Frankie Yankovic, and toured the world with Frank
and his band.
Rita Mihelich - Trustee
A long time volunteer, Rita ran our raffle and sunshine committees and helped with
Awards Show logistics. Rita passed away at age 83.
Jo Leufkens - Co-Founder and Trustee
After helping establish the Hall of Fame, Jo (1932) served as recording secretary
and photographed many events.
LynnMarie and Don Wojtila to Enter Polka Hall of Fame,
Nashville's polka sensation LynnMarie and Cleveland bandleader Don Wojtila are to
be inducted into the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame at the 31st annual
Polka Music Awards Show, Saturday, November 24, 2018, in the Grand Ballroom of the
Downtown Cleveland Marriott Hotel. The event is the highlight of the 55th Thanksgiving
Polka Weekend, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, November 22, 23 and 24.
Bill Azman and Hocevar’s Maple Heights Catering Winners at 15th Polka Hall of Fame
About 1,100 polka-lovers danced their calories away at the SNPJ Farm in Kirtland,
Ohio, on Wednesday, September 12, at the 15th annual Slovenian Sausage Festival hosted
by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum. Visitors sampled sausages
from vendors and voted their favorite, then took to the dance floor for eight hours
of music by top polka performers. The People's Choice Award went to Bill Azman’s
Quality Meats with Raddell's Slovenian Sausage Shop as the runner-up. A panel of
judges picked Hocevar’s Maple Heights Catering for top sausage of 2018 with Bill
Azman's as runner-up. All three sausage vendors are based in the Cleveland, Ohio,
Carmen White - Drummer
Joe Samsa - Saxophonist - Trustees Honor Roll
Ron Setinker - Button accordionist, recording artist
FATHER FRANK PERKOVICH
The Polka Priest from Minnesota
1928 - 2018
Father Frank Perkovich popularized the Polka Mass and turned it into a new tradition
at nationality festivals around the country. His "Songs and Hymns from the Polka
Mass" recordings are the most widely-sold Cleveland-Style polka albums in recent
Frank Perkovich was born in Chisholm, Minnesota, in the lron Range, and grew up enjoying
the Slovenian and Croatian music he heard at home and in his neighborhood. He was
ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1954 and was assigned to area parishes before
arriving at Resurrection Church in Eveleth in 1970.
Changes in worship, following the Vatican II Council, inspired Father George Balasko
to debut the first Polka Mass in Lowellville, Ohio, in 1972 with favorite polka and
waltz melodies performed by a band with lyrics from the liturgy. Father Perkovich
contacted him and set out to style his own version with music by accordionist Joe
Cvek and the Polka Massters, and lyrics adapted by Mary Cvek.
"Father Perk" celebrated his first Polka Mass in 1973 and, spurred by the warm reception,
recorded it with Cvek and his orchestra. His Polka Mass became an immediate sensation
and earned headlines, Festivals soon invited Father Perk and the Cvek musicians for
appearances Both Polka Mass releases sold more than 100,000 copies.
Thanks to Father Perkovich's enthusiasm, the Polka Mass today is featured at celebrations
and special occasions in nationality parishes and neighborhoods across North America
Polka bands may adapt his form with melodies and instrumentation to suit a particular
ethnicity or theme, but the Polka Mass uniquely engages communities within the church
with familiar melodies presented with reverence.
Bobby Zgonc, February 21, 1941 - June 17, 2018
Robert Paul Zgonc of Monroeville passed away Sunday, June 17, 2018. 'Bobby' was a
world-class accordionist, enshrined in the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of
Fame as a Trustees Honor Roll Recipient. He taught himself with a borrowed accordion
beginning at age 11 and ascended to recognition as one of the most proficient at
playing the model known as the button box, with a sound and energy all his own. Born
in Westmoreland City, Pa., to parents of Slovenian descent, he influenced Slovenian
culture across North America through his performances and recordings that included
the 1960 hit 'SNPJ Polka' with the Al Morouse Orchestra.
Nominations are open for five Polka Hall of Fame trustee positions. Each three-year
term is from April, 2018 to March, 2021. Nominees must be members in good standing.
Submit your nominations by January 31, 2018.
Denny Anderson - Trustees Honor Roll
Joe Mlakar - Trustees Honor Roll
Al Pestotnik - Trustees Honor Roll
Alice Kuhar - Trustees Honor Roll
Tony Grdina - Long time photographer
Marcie Moravcik - Cleveland accordionist
Chris Kotsos - Cleveland bandleader
Elaine Vadnal - wife of Richie Vadnal
Gloria Jean DiFabio - keyboard artist
Marilyn Gobely - piano, cornet and accordion player
Passing of Irene Ostanek at the age of 81
Beloved wife of 60 years to Walter Ostanek. Much loved mother of Cheryl and Richard.
Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer Society.
Staiduhar's Favorites on New CD
For the first time, through the efforts of John Hasper of Polkas.nl, you can enjoy
the best of George's original polkas on one album. Get your copy now, contact or
visit the PHOF.
Welcome Dave Skrajner
Polka entertainer Dave Skrajner has joined the Board of Trustees. Dave has been active
on the Cleveland-Style Polka scene for 456 years from when he joined the Eddie Rodick
Orchestra. He then became a charter member of the Don Wojtila Band and has been the
bassist and vocalist ever since.
Ostanek Honors Kenny Bass on New CD
Kenny Bass was among the great performers of Cleveland-Style polka and waltz music.
He received national renown for his Orchestra and his jazzy soundinspired scores
of musicians. Canada's Polka King Walter Ostanek brings together his buddies in a
special tribute CD features the music of Kenny Bass. Our friend from the Netherlands,
John Hasper of Polkas.nl has Produced "Walter Ostanek and Friends Plays Kenny Bass
and his polka poppers" as a fund-raiser for the Polka Hall of Fame. You'll enjoy
the Bass favorites, 24 songs in all.