How the International Polka Association Began
The concept of a national polka convention had been developed and pioneered originally in Chicago. From the popular yearly moonlight dances starting in 1960, which attracted thousands of polka lovers from all sections of the United States and Canada — the first polka convention emerged in 1963. This developed into the International Polka Convention which was presented each succeeding year in Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo, New York.
In January, 1968 a steering committee comprised of Johnny Hyzny, Leon Kozicki, Joe and Jean Salomon, Eddie Blazonczyk and Don Jodlowski met to discuss plans for the next convention. After a series of meetings they began preparations for the formation of the International Polka Association. The Association was officially chartered by the State of Illinois as a “not for profit” corporation and was registered with the County of Cook (Chicago) in August of 1968.
Since 1968 the International Polka Festival has been presented under the auspices of the International Polka Association. The delegates to the 1968 Convention approved the establishment of the Polka Music Hall of Fame and the presentation of annual Polka Music Awards.
As stated in its charter, the International Polka Association was organized as: “An educational and charitable organization for the preservation, promulgation and advancement of polka music and; to promote, maintain and advance public interest in polka entertainment; to advance the mutual interests and encourage greater cooperation among its members who are engaged in polka entertainment; and to encourage and pursue the study of polka music, dancing and traditional folklore.”
The International Polka Association presents many special awards each year to encourage the promotion of polka music. Through the efforts of the IPA, the month of January has been proclaimed as National Polka Music Month and the annual festival has served as a show place for new, deserving polka talent. Many functions under the auspices of the IPA are presented in various states, a weekly radio program has been established and a bi-monthly news bulletin keeps the members informed of the business affairs of the Association, as well as polka related events and news from across the country.
The International Polka Association is also responsible for the continued operation and growth of the Polka Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It is through this branch that the Association has been able to continue its historical,
educational and research goals on behalf of the polka music industry.
Polka Music Hall of Fame
For too long of a time those of us who enjoy polka music had neglected to bestow proper honor and recognition to performers, deejays, and others who have rendered years of faithful service to the polka entertainment industry. Through the years there was considerable discussion and research among our polka leaders to formulate an institution that would honor deserving polka personalities. Although there always was complete agreement as to the purpose and objectives of such an institution, there also existed the reluctance of any group to accept the challenge and responsibility.
To rectify this omission of duty, the delegates to the 1968 International Polka Convention voted and approved the establishment of the Polka Music Hall of Fame. The institution of the Hall of Fame serves to honor outstanding polka personalities who have made significant contributions to the advancement and promotion of polka music. After many months of research and development, the much talked about and long overdue Polka Music Hall of Fame became a living reality. The following year Frankie Yankovic and Li’l Wally Jagiello became the first Hall of Famers elected. They were honored in Chicago at a banquet and special installation ceremony.
The Polka Music Hall of Fame is administered by a twelve member Board of Trustees. We recently just added a Trustee from the State of Texas.
Since originally being established it has undergone several changes. Recipients of this coveted honor are determined by the votes of an academy of over 180 qualified electors. Each year they elect two prominent living polka personalities and one deceased polka personality, who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement and promotion of polka music. Another personality is elected in the pioneer category. Candidates must have been actively engaged in the polka field for a minimum of twenty years. They are selected from all sections of the United States and Canada regardless of ethnic origin, locality or style preference of polka music. The nationally known Institute of Industrial Relations of Loyola University of Chicago has been retained yearly to conduct the election and certify the winners. In conjunction with the Polka Music Hall of Fame, the IPA also presents the annual Polka Music Awards for the favorite performers of the year.
In compliance with the commitment to establish the Polka Music Hall of Fame, the International Polka Association has provided continuous financial support for the improvement and expansion of the Polka Music Hall of Fame and Museum — a dream that became a reality. A suitable and functional building to serve as the depository for the Polka Music Hall of Fame, Museum and administrative office of the Association was purchased.
Later, due to changing circumstances, the building housing the Hall of Fame and Museum was sold and the associated memorabilia is now housed at 4608 S. Archer Avenue, Chicago, in property owned by Polonia Banquets, where board and general membership meetings are also held.
In addition to its function of honoring deserving personalities, the Polka Music Hall of Fame and Museum also serves as a historical and educational medium for polka music. The Hall of Fame and Museum provide a means for people to learn about the origins and development of polka music in all its styles and forms. It also provides an historical record of events and occurrences in the polka field. The institution also contains an unparalleled collection of artifacts, sheet music, recordings and memorabilia associated with polka music that not only provides an educational resource for the general public, but is also a research tool for scholars, the media and historians.
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