Tuesday, March 18, 2014


c. 2014 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

In past installments of this column, I have often written about the enduring and energetic Chardon Polka Band.
This group began at the local high school, where my nephew, Justin, was a student. He performed with the troupe at a variety of venues around Geauga County, in bygone years. Frontman and friend Jake Kouwe provided inspiration. Their vision was clear – to revive the legacy of polka music with a new-age sense of realism.
For this writer, their raucous style was similar in spirit to Chicago’s venerable ‘Polkaholics’ without the emphasis on Rock guitar.
The CPB even offered a rousing version of their ‘Old Style Beer Polka’ along the way.
After graduating from Chardon High School, my nephew took a detour into the realm of higher education to hone his intellectual skills. But Jake chose the polka path to enlightenment.
Over ten years later, this magic-accordion-ride has proved to be a profitable endeavor. Kouwe and the band have played gigs all over the United States, including an opening date for legendary performer ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.
Their CD releases have included ‘Pirates, Women and Beer’ along with ‘A Fistful of Polka’ and the live recording ‘This is Oktoberfest.’
After a decade of polka-delic abandon, perhaps the most difficult question for Kouwe and his gang was “What do we do next?”
The answer came when they were tapped to appear in a reality television series on the Reelz cable channel. The CPB newsletter offered details:

“That’s right, Jake, Paul, Mike, Emily and Pops are headed to television. ‘We’re excited to give viewers a hilarious, insightful and surprising look at the world of polka that has never been seen before,’ said Stan E. Hubbard, CEO of Reelz Channel. ‘Polka Kings brings a fully relatable story of the American spirit through the experiences of a band that’s as close as family and absolutely determined to achieve their dreams.’ The half-hour reality series about your favorite polka band will start filming this spring and is slated to premiere on TV sometime this fall.”

A quick view of their website revealed that they had also been busy creating new merchandise. Listed for sale, in addition to CDs, were bumper stickers, beer koozies and an extensive selection of T-shirts. Included was my favorite from their early days. It read ‘I’m Into Polka Music To Impress The Girls...’
My nephew had worn that shirt for several years. Possibly even to his high school graduation ceremony. I remembered that when he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, I loudly shouted two words in celebration.
“Polka Band!”
A closer look at the website uncovered their extensive 2014 performing schedule:

March 19th – Mentor Senior Center, 8484 Munson Road, Mentor (6-8 p.m.)
March 22nd – Sterles Country House, 1401 E. 55th Street, Cleveland (6-10 p.m.)
March 28th – Bier Haus, 17692 Pearl Road, Strongsville (8-10 p.m.)
March 29th – The Nash, Slovenian National Home, 3563 E. 80th Street, Cleveland (7 p.m. – 12 a.m.)
April 18th – Bier Haus, 17692 Pearl Road, Strongsville (8-10 p.m.)
April 19th - Sterles Country House, 1401 E. 55th Street, Cleveland (6-10 p.m.)
April 21st – Dyngus Day, Cleveland
April 25th – Westlake Village Senior Center, 28550 Westlake Village Drive, Westlake (7-10 p.m.)
April 26th – Westlake United Methodist Church, 27650 Center Ridge Road, Westlake (7-10 p.m.)
June 7th – St. Anthony’s Pierogi Festival, St. Peter’s Pavilion, 3655 Oberlin Avenue, Lorain (5-10 p.m.)
June 11th – Painesville Square (6-8 p.m.)
June 13th – Chardon Square (7-9 p.m.) 
June 15th – Victory Park Gazebo, 51211 North Ridge Road, Vermillion (6:30-8 p.m.)
June 26th – Madison Square (7-9 p.m.)
July 1st – Breckenridge Village, 36855 Ridge Road, Willoughby (7:30-8:30 p.m.)
July 2nd – Brunswick Summer Celebration, 3553 Center Road, Brunswick (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
July 3rd – Wes Point Park Gazebo, Willoughby (7-9 p.m.)
July 4th – Holiday Campland, 4273 Pymatuning Lake Road, Andover (6-8 p.m.)
July 6th – Westlake Recreation Center, 28955 Hilliard Boulevard, Westlake (6:30-8 p.m.)
July 10th – Rocky River Senior Center, 21014 Hilliard Boulevard, Rocky River (1:30-2:30 p.m.)
July 10th – Stinchcomb Summer Concert Series, Rocky River Reservation, Cleveland (6-8 p.m.)
July 12th – Tallmadge Circle (7-9 p.m.)
July 13th – Lakefront Lodge, 30525 Lakeshore Boulevard, Willowick (6;30-8;30 p.m.)
July 15th – Burton Public Library (6:30-8 p.m.)
July 17th – Oakwood Village (7-9 p.m.)
August 6th – General Chaffee Memorial Park, N. Maple Street, Orwell (6;30-8;30 p.m.)
August 7th – Concord Gazebo, 7229 Ravenna Road, Concord (7-9 p.m.)
August 30 & 31st – Cleveland Oktoberfest

With so many performances on the schedule it seemed likely that I would be able to see the band in action. Our last encounter had been at a summer gig on the Chardon Square.
In attendance at that show was local celebrity Mary Malloy Bramstedt. As I finished researching the CPB website, a thought came to mind – would it be possible to write a polka tune for someone descended from the Emerald Isle?
It was a challenge I felt ready to accept.

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
Write us and help the U.S. Postal Service: P.O. Box 365, Chardon, OH 44024


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