It was great to see a young couple crowned king and queen at the National Polka Festival in Ennis, Texas this past May. Jake and Jessica Holland won the dance contest to claim the prize. They love dancing and their Czech heritage. One of their duties is to attend other polka festivals to promote the National Polka Fest. They're looking forward to attending Westfest over Labor Day weekend. Over the summer, I had a chance to visit with the couple who just celebrated their second wedding anniversary on June 26.
You've entered before, right? Yes, this was our fourth consecutive year to dance together in the contest. (Before that Jake danced with his sister, April.)
What's your favorite polka/waltz? Jessica: Seven Step Polka because she grew up dancing it with her dad, and Black Gypsy Waltz. Jake: Pretty Dancing Girl and Hastrman by the Vrazels.
Do y'all go to polka dances often? Yes, we both grew up going to weddings where polka bands played and go to dances if there are any in town.
What are your day jobs? Jessica: pre-k special education teacher in Ennis. Jake: construction manager for the Beck Group in Dallas.
Born and raised in Ennis, right? Yes. Jessica's entire family is Czech and still lives in Ennis. Jake was born and raised in Ennis and is a fitfh generation Czech Texan.
What are some of your best memories of National Polka Festival growing up? Jessica - My favorite memories are being in the parade. I have dressed up as a Girl Scout cookie and handed out candy, rode four years as a high school cheerleader, and rode in my grandparents Vera & Wesley Betik's Model-A wearing a kroj that she had made when she was 16. It made me feel proud to represent my Czech heritage and happy to see so many people enjoying themselves at the parade. Jake- I remember as a kid always looking for the booth that sold rubberband guns, those were a lot of fun, and wanting to ride the carnival rides but mom wouldn't let me saying they were dangerous. (Now that I'm older I realize that she was right.) I also enjoyed riding on floats in high school when we had a float for the football team and again when I rode in a corvette as the SPJST State King. It was fun to spot and wave to my friends and family in the crowd. A specific favorite memory was when my great grandma Annie Martinek dressed up in her kroj and rode on a float in the parade. She was in her 90s at the time.
What do you think would attract more young people to attend polka dances? For us, we grew up going to weddings that had polka music and listening to the Sunday morning polka show. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, instilled in us an appreciation for our Czech heritage including polka dancing. We think it is up to the families to keep the young people interested in polka dancing and promote it at a young age.
Polka on! Jake and Jessica