From coast-to-coast and throughout North America they came to the huge Thanksgiving polka celebration in Cleveland, which featured 20 bands revolving at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Cleveland and the Euclid High Auditorium in suburban Euclid, Ohio.
Topping the list of polka fans was group of a dozen Dutch folks from the Netherlands (Europe) and an outstanding Slovenian button accordian player from Trieste, Italy.
20 different areas were represented including the largest contingency of 150 Canadians-Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, and even Saskatchewan. Buses also brought folks from Michigan, Wisconsin, and New York.
In addition on the roster of hundreds of registered hotel guests were fans from New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Maryland, California, New Mexico, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Connecticut, and from throughout Ohio and all of greater Cleveland.
As the primary sponsor and coordinator of the grand and longest running polka weekend I extend my special acknowledgement to a group of volunteers who have assisted me faithfully for over 40 years. The hard working members of the Cleveland Slovenian Radio Club who served as hosts were: Alice Kuhar, Secretary; Fran Churney; Micki & Don Mausser; Ed Ostry & Barb Vinez; Ronnie and Al Pestotnik; Frank & Julie Sadar; Patty Sluga; Dave & Amy Trenton; Barbara Strumbly; Ken & Anne Tomsick; Duke & Mary Marsic; Denny Bucar; Mark Sedmak; Linda Gorjup and Ray Somich. Greatly missed and out ill were Steve Valencic and Frank Hiti along with wife Mary Jane.
Of the many prominent persons in attendance in addition to radio sponsors and Slovenian community leaders were new State Representative Kenny Yuko, Judge Ron Suster, Councilman Mike Polensek, and US Senator George Voinovich. Cleveland TV'S most popular weatherman/personality, Dick Goddard(channel 8), sang "April Showers".
The big Friday night jam session on the Marriott main stage had close to a hundred musicians and Thursday's highlight, a show in itself, was the Plain Dealer polka and waltz Dance Contest with judges:
Father A. J. Fisher of Alaska; Mark Sedmak of Euclid; Irene Ostanek of Canada; and Hank Pawlak of Cuyahoga Falls. In the end the audience determined winners in a process of elimination conducted by Wayne Tomsic.
Top trophy winners of Best Buy $100 gift certificates were Potsy Jenovic and Nancy Glass for the polka and Richard Duda and Rose Braidich for the waltz. Runners up for $50 Best Buy certificates were Frank Vidmar and Cheryl Pillard for polka and Don and Diane Kamin of Wisconsin for the waltz.
The Saturday 11/27 major events were sponsored by the Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame, Cecilia Dolgan, president. The matinee Awards Show 17 at Euclid High Auditorium to be seen on Adelphia cable TV and broadcast on WELW 1330Am on New Year's Day honored George Staiduhar and the Jadran Singing Society for Lifetime Achievement; "Over Three Hills" and "Oja Waltz" as all time great musical selections; plus the Trustees Honor Roll Bill Randle, Don Gralak, George Knaus, Eddie Platt, Fred Scherz Sr., and the Slovene National Benefit Society (SNPJ).
For the hotly contested annual awards decided by the votes from the 1500 members of the Polka Foundation, the following were winners; Cultural-Heritage-Circle 2 Junior Chorus SNPJ; Support Promotion Val Pawlowski; Button Box Individual-Ron Likovic; Button Box Group- Captain's Crew(second consecutive year); Best Vocalist-Chris Mihelich Hibbs; Musician-Bob Kravos, Sidemen(3 selected)-Ron Sluga, John Geri, Eric Noltkamper; Recording-"Just for You" CD -Bob Kravos and Walt Ostanek(Grammy nominated); and Band of the Year-Bob Kravos Boys in the Band.
Among the notable presenters were the new Slovenian Ambassador to the United States-Samuel Zbogar and promoters Jelse and Marie Vos of Amsterdam, Holland. Among the entertaining musical performances was Italy's Denis Novato who performed his special magic on his Lanzinger button accordian.
Kollander World Travel, now a division of AAA Travel, handled all Marriott Hotel arrangements.
This was the 41st Thanksgiving event and 15 years in downtown Cleveland and downtown Euclid, supporting Polka Radio WELW and 247PolkaHeaven.com.