My paternal grandfather would have loved Pulaski Polka Days.
Though he stood as wide as he was tall (and he was not a short man), Pap had amazingly light feet, particularly when he danced the polka.
A retired coal miner and a man of few words, Pap came to life when he heard that cheerful oom-pah-pah and he whipped his dance partner around the floor with gleeful abandon.
I thought about him Saturday as we skipped our way around the sweaty dance floors in Pulaski. For 34-years this small town has celebrated its Polish heritage with a festival including food (holubkis, pierogis, Polish sausage and paczkis), games, a craft fair, religious services and a parade.
But the star of the four-day event is the polka, a happy dance essentially no more complicated than a kindergartner’s skip.
With the smell of sauerkraut wafting through the steamy air, we made our way through the entrance and saw the first polka tent immediately to our right. Except for weddings, we’d never publicly danced the polka together and we were nervous at first to jump in. There’s an intimidating traffic flow we didn’t want to interrupt.
We watched for a bit and, with visions of embarrassing collisions dancing in our heads, we decided to mosey on over to the food tent.
Eventually, we returned to the dance tent, closed our eyes and jumped in, steering ourselves immediately to the center of the floor where we could get our bearings and find the beat without ramming a grandma. Gingerly, we made our way into the polka traffic, not unlike a student driver merging onto a highway for the first time, and then we relaxed.
We certainly weren’t the best dancers on the floor — those perspiration adverse couples maintained enviably serene faces while they dressed up their polkas with high kicks and dizzying turns. But, eventually we did feel like we blended right in.
We highly recommend Pulaski Polka Days and we plan to make it an annual event.