Polka appreciation starts when young

HUMBOLDT – Polka gets in the blood when you’re young.

Just ask Phillip Brueggen. A sixth-grader from Cashton, Wisconsin, he’s already adept at spinning a lady about the dance floor. In fact, he was one of the most popular dance partners at the annual Midwest Polka Fest Saturday at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds.

“My sister taught me to dance when I was little,” he said, between sets.

Of course, Brueggen was raised with the ompapa sound of deep brass instruments and accompanying accordion. His father leads a band called Brian Brueggen & the Mississippi Valley Dutchmen, which was playing at the festival. Still, family bias aside, Phillip Brueggen said polka is fun and good way to stay active, no matter an individual’s age. It’s an assertion he shares with his friends, but he said just explaining to someone the benefits of dancing though isn’t as nearly effective as getting them out on the floor.

“I don’t tell my friends anything,” he said. “I show them. Once they do it, they know it’s fun.”

Shirley Klein, of Fountain City, Wisconsin, agreed.

“You need to get out and try it,” she said. “Not everyone knows how to polka or two-step, and that’s OK. Everybody has their own style, their own step.”

Klein also started dancing young. She was 6.

“I’ve always loved to dance,” she said. “I was brought up in a dance hall near Centerville. My dad took the tickets.”

Dennis Stitcha, of New Prague, Minnesota, was also raised around dance although it wasn’t in a public hall. Rather it was in his kitchen where his aunts and uncles moved to the music provided by his father who played the concertina, an instrument similar to an accordion or button box.

“I was brought up with it,” Stitcha said. “It’s part of my memories of my dad and his brother and sisters.”

People don’t need to be born and bred to polka to enjoy it though, said Nova Holbeck, of Luverne, Minnesota. Anyone can join in at the festival and feel as if they’re at home.

“It’s just fun to dance, whether you know how or you’re just learning,” she said. “It’s a fun thing to do, and the people are so friendly you always feel welcomed.”

The music and merriment of the Midwest Polka Fest continues today with a 10 a.m. polka Mass. Bands then take to the stages once again from noon to 4 p.m. Attendees are from all over Iowa, as well as Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado and Kansas.