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March 20, 2014 by | No Comments

In past installments of this column, I have often written about the enduring and energetic Chardon Polka Band.This group began at the local high school,…

In past installments of this column, I have often written about the enduring and energetic Chardon Polka Band.

This group began at the local high school, where my nephew, Justin, was a student. He performed with the troupe at a variety of venues around Geauga County, in bygone years. Frontman and friend Jake Kouwe provided inspiration. Their vision was clear to revive the legacy of polka music with a new-age sense of realism.

For this writer, their raucous style was similar in spirit to Chicago’s venerable “Polkaholics”without the emphasis on rock guitar.

The CPB even offered a rousing version of their ‘Old Style Beer Polka’ along the way.

After graduating from Chardon High School, my nephew took a detour into the realm of higher education to hone his intellectual skills. But Jake chose the polka path to enlightenment.

Over ten years later, this magic-accordion-ride has proved to be a profitable endeavor. Kouwe and the band have played gigs all over the United States, including an opening date for legendary performer ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.

Their CD releases have included ‘Pirates, Women and Beer’ along with ‘A Fistful of Polka’ and the live recording ‘This is Oktoberfest.’

After a decade of polka-delic abandon, perhaps the most difficult question for Kouwe and his gang was “What do we do next?”

The answer came when they were tapped to appear in a reality television series on the Reelz cable channel. The CPB newsletter offered details:

“That’s right, Jake, Paul, Mike, Emily and Pops are headed to television. ‘We’re excited to give viewers a hilarious, insightful and surprising look at the world of polka that has never been seen before,’ said Stan E. Hubbard, CEO of Reelz Channel. ‘Polka Kings brings a fully relatable story of the American spirit through the experiences of a band that’s as close as family and absolutely determined to achieve their dreams.’

“The half-hour reality series about your favorite polka band will start filming this spring and is slated to premiere on TV sometime this fall.”

A quick view of their website revealed that they had also been busy creating new merchandise. Listed for sale, in addition to CDs, were bumper stickers, beer koozies and an extensive selection of T-shirts. Included was my favorite from their early days. It read ‘I’m Into Polka Music To Impress The Girls…’

My nephew had worn that shirt for several years. Possibly even to his high school graduation ceremony. I remembered that when he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, I loudly shouted two words in celebration.

“Polka Band!”

A closer look at the website uncovered their extensive 2014 performing schedule:

March 22 Sterles Country House, 1401 E. 55th Street, Cleveland (6-10 p.m.)

March 28 Bier Haus, 17692 Pearl Road, Strongsville (8-10 p.m.)

March 29 The Nash, Slovenian National Home, 3563 E. 80th Street, Cleveland (7 p.m. 12 a.m.)

April 18 Bier Haus, 17692 Pearl Road, Strongsville (8-10 p.m.)

April 19 – Sterles Country House, 1401 E. 55th Street, Cleveland (6-10 p.m.)

April 21 Dyngus Day, Cleveland

April 25 Westlake Village Senior Center, 28550 Westlake Village Drive, Westlake (7-10 p.m.)

April 26 Westlake United Methodist Church, 27650 Center Ridge Road, Westlake (7-10 p.m.)

June 7 St. Anthony’s Pierogi Festival, St. Peter’s Pavilion, 3655 Oberlin Avenue, Lorain (5-10 p.m.)

June 11 Painesville Square (6-8 p.m.)

June 13 Chardon Square (7-9 p.m.)

June 15 Victory Park Gazebo, 51211 North Ridge Road, Vermillion (6:30-8 p.m.)

June 26 Madison Square (7-9 p.m.)

July 1 Breckenridge Village, 36855 Ridge Road, Willoughby (7:30-8:30 p.m.)

July 2 Brunswick Summer Celebration, 3553 Center Road, Brunswick (6:30-9:30 p.m.)

July 3 Wes Point Park Gazebo, Willoughby (7-9 p.m.)

July 4 Holiday Campland, 4273 Pymatuning Lake Road, Andover (6-8 p.m.)

July 6 Westlake Recreation Center, 28955 Hilliard Boulevard, Westlake (6:30-8 p.m.)

July 10 Rocky River Senior Center, 21014 Hilliard Boulevard, Rocky River (1:30-2:30 p.m.)

July 10 Stinchcomb Summer Concert Series, Rocky River Reservation, Cleveland (6-8 p.m.)

July 12 Tallmadge Circle (7-9 p.m.)

July 13 Lakefront Lodge, 30525 Lakeshore Boulevard, Willowick (6;30-8;30 p.m.)

July 15 Burton Public Library (6:30-8 p.m.)

July 17 Oakwood Village (7-9 p.m.)

August 6 General Chaffee Memorial Park, N. Maple Street, Orwell (6;30-8;30 p.m.)

August 7 Concord Gazebo, 7229 Ravenna Road, Concord (7-9 p.m.)

August 30 & 31 Cleveland Oktoberfest

With so many performances on the schedule it seemed likely that I would be able to see the band in action. Our last encounter had been at a summer gig on the Chardon Square.

In attendance at that show was local celebrity Mary Malloy Bramstedt. As I finished researching the CPB website, a thought came to mind would it be possible to write a polka tune for someone descended from the Emerald Isle?

It was a challenge I felt ready to accept.

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