George Lesnansky, a business promotion student at Youngstown University had an idea for a new image in polka programming which he felt was needed to update the image of polka radio shows. In May of 1964, the radio career of Larry “Polka’ Walk was born. An idea and determination and a desire to make people happy was what ft took to take station management at WNIO Radio to realize that polkas could fit into their format. After making an audition tape and taking it to station management they asked “can you always do that’, puzzled Larry asked “do what. Make your voice sound like Lawrence Welk. Then a second test tape was made and thus George Lesnansky hit the air-waves with the name Larry “Polka” Walk. His Happy Polkaland show was given a 13 week trail, with the understanding that Larry would also take a part time sales job with the station. Before the first show was even aired Larry had signed four accounts to the show, and one month later the show was expanded to one hour with ten sponsors.
During the next five years the shows popularity expanded and the program was now a two and 1/2 hour program heard on Sunday afternoons with 30 sponsors. One of which was the Idora Park Amusement Co. A year later Larry convinced Idora management to let him “book” and promote a 12-hour polka festival in their ballroom. In 1967, the first Penn-Ohio Festival was born. The festival proved to be a huge success and in 1968 two festivals were presented, each year until a fire closed the park. Due to the success of the festivals, Idora management elected to continue the festivals for two more years until the property was sold. Until a new location could be found, Larry moved the festivals to Yankee Lake Ballroom. In 1987 the festival would find a new home at Conneaut Lake Park and it had grown into a three-day festival. The popularity of the festival was so great that it had outgrown the ballrooms where it was held, and it had to re-open The Dreamland Ballroom in 1992 to accommodate the crowds. Due to Larry’s success with polka festivals, he has been retained for a number of years as the booking agent for the Pittsburgh Tent Festival, The Armstrong County Polka Fest, The New Castle Oktoberfest and others. In addition, Larry will also continue to host the Sunday afternoon Gateway Clipper Penn-Opion Polka Cruises, The 20th Annual Bavarian Funfest and other events.
Larry celebrated his 30th Anniversary of involvement with polka music this past April, in these past 30 years Larry has been heard on a total of 14 stations, the stations have come and gone, but in the true show business tradition, Larry and the show have always gone on. When he is not promoting polkas he is a secondary Math teacher and has served as an Senior High Assistant Principal. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Masters of Science Degree in Secondary School Administration both from Youngstown State University. His Happy Polkaland Shows are heard on WPIC 790 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on Sundays with the morning edition heard on WKTX from 8:30-11:30 a.m. Larry was inducted into the Polka Music Hall of Fame for his outstanding accomplishments over his 30 year career in the polka industry. All of us at the IPA proudly welcome him into this elite group.