Referred to as “polka-punks,” 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.
Despite the band’s sometimes gruff appearance, this eccentric group is friendly and outgoing. They are among Cleveland, Ohio’s most recognizable performers at local parks, festivals, parades, and parties; they still perform regularly at local nursing homes.
The Chardon Polka Band has become a well-known act in the fall “Oktoberfest circuit,” headlining some of the nation’s largest seasonal events. The band travels throughout the nation; their showmanship and humor have won them fans outside the polka genre.
Jake Kouwe, who plays accordion and provides vocals for the band, founded the group in 2003. “We’re always evolving,” he said. “We’ve morphed from a high school project, to a hobby, to a career.”
Over the years the band has found there are misconceptions about polka.
“People think polkas are silly,” Kouwe said. “They think they’re old and honky. Polka, like anything, can have attitude. Polka is fun, energetic, and irreverent.”
The band is currently working on a children’s album. “We are pretty excited about it,” Kouwe remarked.
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.
Fragel will be assisted by some of his siblings: his brothers, Doug Fragel and Bruce Wehling, and his sisters, Sharon Vogelsberg and Pam Wecker.
“My parents, Juanita and Toad Fragel, took our family to a lot of dances when we were younger,” Brian said. “We would go as a family and listen to the music and dance. My parents taught us to polka at a very young age. To this day our family enjoys a polka dance.”
Brian said people will have a lot of fun learning to dance the polka, and he said the polka is not difficult to learn.
“The most important thing to remember when dancing the polka is to have a ton of fun,” he said.
Brian thinks polka music is very enjoyable. “When you listen to the lyrics to polka music, it is really funny and it is all about having a good time,” he said.
Marysville Main Street will sponsor a beer garden that evening.
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, and Kids Zone. More information about the weekend’s activities may be found at bigbluebbqmarysville.com.