BY SHERI TRUSTY
When the Frank Moravcik Band began playing “Blue Skirt Waltz” on Friday, the first night of the three-day Perch, Peach, Pierogi and Polka Festival, Sue Garofalo grabbed John Hingulak’s hand and together they headed to the dance floor. The song brought back memories of Garofalo’s father, a band leader, and she wanted to reminisce as she danced a polka.
“My dad, Joe Florian, played the accordion and had a Czech polka band in Cleveland from the 40s to the 60s,” Garofalo said. “When I was a girl, he would sing this song to me. Every time I hear it, I have to dance in his memory.”
For many people, like Garofalo, polka music has a strong emotional pull.
“When I hear ‘Blue Skirt Waltz,’ I can see my dad playing the accordion. I can hear his voice,” she said. “He died shortly after I graduated college, so he missed a lot of my life. This makes me feel young again.”
Hingulak, who is 92, had no trouble leading 68-year-old Garofalo across the dance floor. They traveled from Parma with Hingulak’s girlfriend, Dianne Buchak, to attend the 18th annual Perch, Peach, Pierogi and Polka Festival at the Knights of Columbus in Port Clinton. It was the second Polka dance they attended that week.
“We were just at the Slovenian National Home in Cleveland on Wednesday,” Garofalo said. “They have a fundraiser the last Wednesday of every month to save the home, and we always go and dance.”
Also on the dance floor were Joe and Jenny Romp of Toledo, who have missed only one festival in 18 years, and Eugene and Chantal Brutovsky, who traveled from their home in Binghamton, N.Y. to attend the festival. The couples are longtime friends who often travel to polka events together.
“We love the Cleveland-style bands that do different music – the fox trot, swing and polka,” Joe said. “The festival has good people, good music and good food. Everyone is so friendly.”
Since the festival’s inception, the event has been co-chaired by Jerry Arnold and Ed Verkin. This year, they passed the reins to Paul Messerly.
“He’s done a great job,” Arnold said.
Festival cooks prepared about 1,200 pounds of perch and 12,000 pierogis and about 800 servings of peach pie. The money raised at the festival is donated to several Knights of Columbus causes, including Ruth Ann’s House, Heartbeat of Ottawa County and Bistro 163.
“This started out as a $10,000 festival. Now it’s an $80,000 festival,” Arnold said. “It’s fun. It’s clean. This is a nice area, and everyone just has a good time.”
Festival organizers were expecting between 7,000 and 10,000 attendees this year, many of whom return year after year.