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Lake Erie Folk Fest brings music, dance to Euclid’s Shore Cultural Center today

February 23, 2019

Lake Erie Folk Fest brings music, dance to Euclid’s Shore Cultural Center today

EUCLID, Ohio –– It’s 10 a.m. Friday, and Shore Cultural Center is filled with students and music. The students, grades one through six, are from Euclid, Cleveland and Conneaut.

The music? Polka.

These musicians are brave enough to try to engage pre-lunch youngsters with music older than their great-grandparents. The Chardon Polka Band, a group of talented young musicians whose website says they are “the most feared and powerful polka band in the industry today,” have come to Euclid to kick off the Lake Erie Folk Fest.

The festival on Saturday offers music workshops, jams, dances and performances — all for free from 1 to 6 p.m. The Grand Finale concert is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $15.

With little introduction, the five-person ensemble blasts into the Tick Tock Polka. Then, as “Pass it On,” the education arm of the Lake Erie Folk Fest begins, CPB founder and frontman Jake Kouwe jumps in to get the kids involved.

“How many of you have ever moved, had to move to another place?” Kouwe, his shoulder length brown hair tucked under a red and white Chardon Polka Band ballcap asks the students. Most hands shoot up.

Kouwe glides to the edge of the stage, his Ottovianelli accordion strapped to his shoulders. “Did you leave everything behind at your old home?” he asks. Heads shake vigorously and “no” echoes through the auditorium.

“You brought your music with you, didn’t you?” he says, nodding. “Lots of other people from lots of other places brought their music with them, too. They packed up their music, and their heritage, and they brought it here with them.”

Kouwe then introduces members of his band and the instruments they play. He quizzes the students on the characteristics of each instrument, saxophone, clarinet, flute, banjo, “gee-tar,” drums and accordion. Reeds, strings, vocal chords, drum heads. All the things that vibrate to make sound.

Fully engaged now, the students are tapping their feet to the polka’s duple meter. The CPB showcased the guitar with the “antique” rock song, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” then introduced the drum with Joey Dahlhausen playing the Surfaris’ “Wipe Out.” Mike Franklin (banjo/guitar/vocals) showed off some special vocal chord vibration with a yodeling song, and gave the kids a chance to try that out for themselves.

No polka lesson is complete without “Who Stole the Kishka?” Krouwe uses the song to talk more about different cultures, different music, different food, telling them that kishka is blood sausage. Some students make icky faces.

“OK, then, we’ll talk about my very favorite food, pizza!,” he says. “Who likes pizza?” Hands rocket into the air.

“So, who has had pineapple on pizza?” Krouwe asks. “How about pepperoni. Anchovies?” Different parts of the auditorium come to life with each ingredient mentioned.

Lessons nearing the end, the band cruises into “Pizza Polka.”

“Take some cheese, put it on the pizza with the pepperoni then you come and have some pizza with me, won’t you come and have some pizza with me, ” they sing, bopping around the stage, the kids in the front rows bouncing in time.

“No they aren’t all the same, I like to use green peppers and you like broccoli,” they continue. When the song ends, Krouwe uses the pizza metaphor to explain the importance of the Lake Erie Folk Fest.

“With pizza, you can have all different ingredients, you put them together and it tastes good,” he says. “We’re not all the same, some like broccoli, mushrooms, pineapple or anchovies. All the people who have come here and brought all their different cultures, they’re adding their own flavor to our community pizza. They took music from over there, brought it over here, and we all made it our own. We celebrate that with the Folk Festival this weekend. Come back tomorrow, we’ll be here all day.”