Chardon Polka Band to Kick Off Big Blue River Days

Polka With An Attitude

Described as “polka with an attitude” the Chardon Polka Band will kick off Big Blue River Days with a free concert Thursday, May 31, at 7:00 p.m. The five-member band will play in the Seventh Street corridor in downtown Marysville.

The band’s performance is sponsored by the Marshall County Arts Cooperative.

The polka band plays traditional polkas reminiscent of “The Lawrence Welk Show,” but sometimes they morph into punk-rock renditions of the same song to bring in a younger audience. They incorporate comedic renditions of oddball favorites, bizarre audience participation songs, and even polka-rock covers of anything from Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” to Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

The band also has a growing library of original songs.

Jake Kouwe, who plays accordion and provides vocals for the band, founded the group in 2003; at the time Kouwe was a sixteen-year-old high school student. He wanted to play the accordion in the high school’s marching band, but he was told there was no place for an accordion in the band. In response he recruited other teenagers to form a genuine oom-pah style polka band. The group, known as The Chardon High School Polka Band, found a following in local nursing homes.

Fifteen years later the band continues to perform at least two hundred shows per year. The band no longer calls itself The Chardon High School Polka Band since the original group has graduated from high school; now they are the Chardon Polka Band. The band has a faithful fan base ranging from senior citizens to small children, teenagers, and twenty-somethings.

The band travels throughout the nation playing various festivals and events. Their showmanship and humor have won them many fans outside the polka genre.

Other band members are Mike Franklin, banjo, guitar, and yodeling; Emily Kouwe, saxophone, flute; Joey Dahlhausen, drums; and Mitch Lawrence, saxophone.

Brian Fragel, director of Marysville Sport and Recreation, will lead polka dance lessons at 6:00 p.m. The lessons are free and will be held in the same location as the concert.

A beer garden will be available.

The concert kicks off Big Blue River Days May 31, June 1 and 2. Other activities include a poker run, Friday Night Cruisin’, Kansas City Barbecue Society Big Blue BBQ championship, Marysville AutoFest, Kids Zone, and Rib Run. More information about the weekend’s activities may be found at bigbluebbqmarysville.com.

Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.