Dance Hall Preservation Art Contest Winners Announced

Fourteen Fayette County students accepted Texas Dance Hall Preservation’s challenge to create art depicting the county’s rich dance hall history. “They were all amazing entries,” TDHP President Deb Fleming said. “It was great to see dance hall history come alive through the eyes of these young, talented artists.”
      First place went to Allyson Hoffman, a junior at Fayetteville High School, for her colored pencil drawing of Sengelmann Hall. Second place went to Hector Aguilar, a sophomore at Round Top Carmine (RTC) High School, for his drawing of antique cars outside a dance hall. Third place went to Justin Hickman, a senior at RTC, for his drawing of a band playing at the Chicken Ranch Dance Hall layered on top of a Fayette County Record newspaper. Alyssa Hayden, a RTC junior, received honorable mention for her 3D representation of Sengelmann
      The art was displayed at the TDHP fundraiser on Nov. 12. Each contestant received a signed print of Cat Spring Agricultural Hall by Fayetteville artist Pat Johnson, and a Polka On! goodie bag from Texas Polka News and The four winners also received cash prizes and a Polka On! tote bag, along with a one-year subscription to the Texas Polka News.
      The winners shared why they entered the contest and their future plans.

I decided to enter the contest so that I could grow as an artist. I wanted to do Sengelmann Hall because of the detail in the architecture. I have been to many Fayette Co. dance halls, like the
SPJST hall in Fayetteville, Swiss Alp, and a few others. I think it’s important to preserve
the dance halls because it’s a part of our Texas history. Buildings like these are no longer constructed. I plan on pursuing a career in art.

I am new to Fayette County, so the art competition seemed like a good way to learn about the history of the area. I have never been to a dance hall in Fayette County, but after researching
them I want to go and hear some good music! Preservation of the dance halls is very important because it is the same as preserving the culture and the heritage of the people here.

I entered the competition because I love living in Fayette County and the dance halls are a big part of growing up here. I have been to just about every dance hall in Fayette County. I really enjoy dancing and listening to good Texas country music. Maintaining the dance halls in Fayette County is important because it is a major piece of the culture and history of this area. I would like to attend TSTC after high school to become a diesel mechanic.

ALYSSA HAYDEN, Honorable Mention
I entered the dance hall competition because I admire antiques and history. This gave me a chance to express my appreciation on a larger scale. My piece allowed me to create a representation of Sengelmann Hall without using conventional drawing tools. I have been to Zapp Hall, RoundTop Rifle Hall, Carmine Hall, and the Round Up Hall! Preservation of the dance halls is important because it gives people a glimpse at how things used to be. My goal is to major in International Business and Marketing.

TPN to Sponsor Salute to Hofner, Czech Polka at Pearl

Join Texas Polka News in saluting the music of Adolph Hofner in the centennial of his birth on Wed., Aug. 17, and kicking up our heels at a Czech polka dance on Wed., Aug. 24. Both are part of the Summer Dance Hall Series at the Pearl Stable in San Antonio, held from 6-9 pm.

The Hofner salute will feature music by The New Pearl Wranglers, led by David Bedrich of Austin. (David also plays for Czech Melody Masters and The Swingsters.) Adolph's daughter,
Kathy Hofner Fielding, will be there, and maybe join the band for a tune or two.

The polka dance on the 24th will feature the music of Mark Halata & Texavia. Texavia played
at the Pearl Stable last year and everyone had a ball.

When the San Antonio Brewery closed in 2001, the brewery grounds were repurposed using the majestic brew building as a focal point, into the “community” of Pearl. Boasting 324 apartments, 15 restaurants, 13 retailers, and 18 resident businesses, as well as a twice-weekly Farmers Market, Pearl has formed an exciting neighborhood on the upper San Antonio River just north of downtown known as Museum Reach. The newest addition is Hotel Emma, which
opened last fall in the Brewhouse.


It's a Free For All!

Accordion Wrestling
By Gary E. McKee

The Hot Peppers: (L-R) Bill Seim, Bob Ascott, Rambie Briggs, Rollie Revering at the 2014 Free-For-All./CTAA photo

The Central Texas Accordion Association will host its 15th annual Accordion Free-For-All, Tuesday, June 7, at 7 pm. The program is being held in the Lamar Senior Activity Center on 2874 Shoal Crest Ave, Austin.

          The crowd-pleasing program features 10 to 12 accordionists who are given approximately 10 minutes each to showcase their skills, as well as one or two accordion bands. This year's event will feature special guest Chris Rybak, the Accordion Cowboy. All genres of music, such as country and western, big band, polkas, and European styles will possibly be performed. Some accordionists perform solo and some have a rhythmic backing musician.

          "We also have had yodelers, singers, concertinas, diatonic accordions, and piano accordions, says CTAAA President Rollie Revering. "Musicians of various talent levels play while still keeping close to a professional level. And of course, a jester of some kind to bring a few laughs.

         The CTAA, 40 members strong, meets monthly at Casa Chapala Mexican Restaurant for programs and jams. The Association was a sponsor of the Texas Folklife's Big Squeeze Contest promoting youth accordion skills and is a chapter of the National Accordion Association.

          Remember June is National Accordion Month so come on down to see what all this squeezing is about.

Support Your Local Church Picnic

In addition to being Dairy Month, June is also the core of the picnic season. There are over 100 church-related picnics yearly and a good many of them occur in June through August. So please attend at least one local picnic and then plan a trip to a new one.

By Gary E. McKee

To a visitor from Elsewhere, USA, the idea of a picnic might conjure up images of plaid blankets on the ground with a wicker basket of cold food beside a lake containing a canoe and a delicate lady shading herself with a parasol as a gentleman tries to woo her by playing his accordion. Well pardner, come on down to the Polka Belt, and be prepared to immerse yourself into the alphanumeric drone of Bingo, an auctioneer’s rapid fire patter, the clinking of plastic rings on liters of soda water, the enticing smell of homemade food cooking, the alternating rhythms of polka bands, and the delightful sound of laughter as friends and family reunite in a yearly homecoming.

The summer picnic season runs from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend with a few picnics scattered on both sides to symbolize more agrarian times of the year, i.e. planting and harvest times. The term "picnic" is an anachronism from days of old bringing to mind the first image above without fire-ants. While church fundraisers dominate the picnic calendar, many organizations have sponsored them.

Father Ed Karasek was raised attending picnics from probably day one as his parents were in charge of making the potato salad at the Frenstat picnic. His early memories were of playing the Teddy Bear wheel trying to win one. The ball/bottle throw was a popular booth with a winner getting either a cigar or pack of gum depending upon the winner’s age. The Gil Baca or Sil Krenek Bands provided the music. This is where the “Dancing Priest” learned to polka. A “community builder” is how Fr. Ed describes the church picnic, bringing families together and providing entertainment for the kids. Now tending to his primarily Hispanic flock in Lockhart at St. Mary of the Visitation, Fr. Ed is heavily involved in their yearly picnic, named Jamaica, now in its 40th year of food, music and fellowship. This year's picnic will be held July 24 and 25.

Picnic evolution
Let’s go back a few years and take a brief look at picnics, bazaars, and celebrations to see how they have evolved. In September of 1902 the Texasky Mir, No. 10 S.P.J.S.T. Lodge of Shiner held a Feast and Picnic in Hilderbrandt’s Park with children’s games being the prominent feature of the day, along with “Orators of Repute delivering address on Questions of Vital Interest to Our People.”

Politicians utilized these large gatherings of voters to campaign and connect with the “common” people. At some picnics literately thousands of people would stand in the weather (generally hot) and listen to the politicians for hours, an inconceivable event nowadays. Not all were on Sundays as the S.P.J.S.T. lodge of Snook announced that it will give a picnic on Easter Monday, April 8, 1912 at their new hall.

The Brenham St. Peter’s Church held a picnic in May of 1915, with wagons transporting those wishing to attend to the “beautiful spot adjoining the Giddings place about one mile north of town. The members of the Women’s Guild have charge of the picnic and will take care of the children who wish to attend without their parents. All members of the Sunday school and congregation are expected (editor’s emphasis) to go and take their friends if they wish.”

Picnic during the week
The Schwertner (NW of Granger) Biennial Picnic in June of 1936 was a community happening that was held on a Tuesday and Wednesday. Among the bands performing those two days were Joe Buzze’s Orchestra of Waco, and Louis Welk’s Eleven Piece Orchestra. Two years later the Shimek Brass Band performed. The July 4th weekend of 1926 was a busy period, as it is now, in the Fayette County area, picnic and celebration wise. Hostyn’s feast hosted one of the largest political gatherings in Texas as Governor “Ma” Ferguson and Farmer Jim Ferguson were scheduled to speak. With a noon vehicle count of 3,300 vehicles, the crowd was estimated to be between 10,000 and 20,000 folks, the Schulenburg Sticker reported. The crowd stood for hours in the sun listening to the Ferguson speeches.

Politicians and baseball
Dubina’s celebration drew several thousand people to hear a well received political speech by Senator Gus Russek (Schulenburg) and Method Pazdral, a former local attorney of Czech origin. The Ammansville Snappy Orchestra played a dance that was attended by 2000 people with 300 tickets being sold to young men. From what this writer can deduce from the ads, during this time period, to actually dance, a ticket was needed, while some venues sold a lesser price ticket for “spectators” as one ad put it, People traveled to see Shiner play Schulenburg in baseball, hear Governor Dan Moody talk, and dance that evening to “most excellent band music” in Shiner.

Two weeks later High Hill had a feast that kicked off with the Blessing of the new Parish House by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Drossaerts of San Antonio followed by solemn High Mass. Afterwards a grand chicken and barbecue dinner was served by the ladies of the parish. That afternoon speeches by various politicians will be given followed by a baseball game between Dubina and High Hill. Concert Music was provided by the Ammansville Brass Band and singing by the High Hill Mannerchor. In the evening The High Hill Dramatic Club provide entertainment, accompanied by the previous band and choir (no dance.)

June of 1959, St. Martin’s Parish, in Tours (NE of Waco) held a “Fun for Everyone” picnic with “Something for Everyone to do - All Afternoon and Evening – Ride the Train – Play Games – SUPPER SERVED 4:30 to 9PM – Fried Chicken, Roast Beef and Baked Ham;” that evening Slim Haisler and His Play Boys of Temple provided the dance music.

Don't just drive thru
While the picnic format has evolved into the fairly formulaic state, that is, church service, meal, and then simultaneously live music, games for children, Bingo, a long auction, and family visiting; it has changed from an event on any day or days of the week to a Sunday for six to eight hours, with a few exceptions like the St. John Fourth of July Picnic and the Prazska Pout (Praha Feast) always held August 15 on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

The Fourth of July Picnic at the S.P.J.S.T. hall in West was discontinued in 1966 due to diminishing crowds. Air-conditioning, television, and newly built lakes nearby were to blame, the West News opined. In the pre-automobile days, crowds would gather in town and led by a band march en masse to the picnic grounds. While picnics seem to still attract a large number of folks, it is my observation that the drive-through dinner option of picnics, while increasing the financial income, has diminished the communal bonds that the picnics have built up over the years.

So, please support your local picnic, whether it be in Seguin, Dubina, Wallis, Frenstat, Granger, Shiner, Stoneham, Ennis, Cyclone, or Houston. And please park your vehicle and make new friends or discover extended family members. Check out the listing of Church Picnics at

26th Annual Accordion Kings & Queens June 6

Texas Folklife will bring its annual celebration of the state’s accordion roots music to Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, June 6, at 7:00 p.m. In keeping with its mission to preserve and present Texas’s diverse musical heritage, the festival will feature stars and legends in polka, Cajun zydeco, and conjunto. This year’s accordion stars will include Debra Peters and the Love Saints, Jerome Batiste and the Zydeko Players, and the Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs and special guests National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow Flaco Jiménez, Augie Meyers, and Rick Treviño. The accordion stars will be joined onstage by this year’s Big Squeeze Grand Prize Winners: Elizabeth Kelley (Cajun/Zydeco), Brandon Hodde (Polka) performing with the All Around Czechs, and Rito Peña (Conjunto). 

The Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs hardly need an introduction. The band is comprised of founder Max Baca on bajo sexto, Josh Baca on accordion, Noel Hernandez on electric bass, and Daniel Martinez on the drums. Los Texmaniacs won the 2010 Grammy award for Best Tejano Album, Borders y Bailes, on the Smithsonian Folkways label. Their sound has been called “hip music everybody can relate to” and is comprised of conjunto, rock, and rhythm and blues. Los Texmaniacs will be joined onstage by National Heritage Fellow Flaco Jiménez, who recently won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and has been called the “King of Conjunto,” Augie Meyers, and Rick Treviño. It will be a special night as the new Texmaniacs CD, Americano Groove, will be released. The album was produced by Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos), and includes vocals from a roster of Texas music royalty: Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely, Kevin Fowler, and Rick Trevino. Additional guest musicians include David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Steve Berlin, and Augie Meyers. It's a mix of five traditional conjunto tracks, three country tracks, and four others that blur genres between rock and TexMex.

Jerome Batiste and the Zydeko Players will bring the Cajun/zydeco beat to the festival this year. Batiste has described himself as a “Creole Cowboy,” and has described the type of music he and his band play as a little bit of everything—Cajun, Creole, jazz, zydeco, blues, rock & roll, and reggae. Based in Crosby, Texas—on the Louisiana side of Houston—the band spreads the gospel of Zydeco Nation throughout the region.

Debra Peters and the Love Saints hail from Austin where they perform a mix of sounds—blues, zydeco, polka, western swing, and classic country. The band has traveled around the globe playing their blend of Texas roots music. Ms. Peters is also an educator. She has created a series of educational videos and teaches the accordion with a special emphasis on encouraging young women to take up the national instrument of Texas.

This year’s event will again be co-emceed by writers and radio hosts Joe Nick Patoski and Tony Diaz. The festival is free and open to the music-loving public. Festivalgoers wanting seats in the pavilion area can pick up their free tickets the day of the festival at the Miller Box Office or become members of Texas Folklife and receive reserved tickets in advance.

One of the important ways Texas Folklife carries out its mission is by introducing the culture bearers of the past to the culture bearers of the future. This will be on display at the 26th annual Accordion Kings & Queens Festival as the three young winners from the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest take to the stage to play with these powerhouse performers. Not only will the young players benefit from this joyous musical connection, but those lucky enough to be in the audience will have the opportunity to witness this generational passing of the torch.

“We are very much looking forward to this year’s Accordion Kings and Queens Festival,” said Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “The concert was started with the idea of promoting the accordion and its role in the different genres of roots music found throughout the state. It has become a full-out celebration of that music, featuring musical legends and stars, and it also has become the breeding ground for the next generation of squeezeboxers with our newly crowned Big Squeeze Champs taking to the stage. And we are thrilled that Los Texmaniacs is using the Festival this year to release their new CD. It will be a joyous night of celebrating all things accordion—with dancing and merry-making, all under the stars in Houston, Texas. Put on your dancing shoes or boots and join us!”  

Celebrate with Accordion Stars in Vegas

The 16th Annual Las Vegas International Accordion Convention will be held June 22-25, 2015, at the Gold Coast Hotel located at 4000 West Flamingo Blvd., in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Sponsored by Accordions International, this year celebrates the return to a summer event with the theme “Summer Solstice.”  Notable this year is nearly a complete new lineup of accordion stars!

Two-time Grammy winner Riders in the Sky (Nashville, TN) is set to open the event on Monday evening, June 22.  Grayson Masefield (Zurich, Switzerland), five-time world champion and the only person to have won both the Virtuoso and Entertainment categories of the prestigious Accordion Coupe Mondiale (CIA) will be performing Tuesday evening.  Also set for Tuesday evening, Mary Tokarski (Northford, CT), Accordions International 2015 Honorary Director will be performing.  The famous group EUROPA (Orlando, FL) will be performing Wednesday evening plus the legendary Joey Miskulin will appear.  Thursday evening will feature the 8th installment of the Las Vegas International Accordion Orchestra under the direction of the esteemed Joan Cochran Sommers. 

Completing the lineup of stars are Paul Betken (Phoenix, AZ), Jerry Cigler (Chicago, IL), Gina Brannelli, Gordon Kohl, Stas Venglevski, plus Vegas comedian Pete Barbutti!  There will be dancing Wednesday night to Europa. 

Registration fee for the event includes 7 superb Las Vegas banquet meals with concerts plus over 40 workshops and master classes taught by top experts.

Visit for complete pricing options, or contact the Las Vegas International Accordion Convention at +1 801-486-1695 for personal assistance.