Three-Day Polka Festival Begins in Ennis Friday

You'll smell Kolaches baking and hear the organ-like sounds of the accordion this weekend in Ennis. It's polka time!  

The National Polka Festival returns Friday night for three days of Czech traditions and fun. The festival celebrates its 50th year in 2016.

"If you've never polka'd, you need to polka," Ennis Convention and Visitors Bureau tourism director Gina Roka said. "You do not have to know how to polka. People here will be glad to teach you. Just come and have a great time."

Some of the best polka dancers around will compete in the 30th annual King and Queen Dance contest. This year, past winners will dance for the title of All-Star King and Queen Friday night. The hometown favorites are David and Diane Liska. 

"In 2011, we were lucky enough to win the contest," David said. "You just had to dance until you almost dropped."

It was polka that brought David and Diane together nine years ago. They both lived in Ennis -- he on a farm and she in the city -- and go to the same Catholic church, but they had never met until they were part of a group that traveled to the Czech Republic.

The story of their first dance on that trip depends on who you ask.

"I'm going to say I asked her," David said. "She'll say she asked me."

"I kept waiting and waiting," Diane said. "I went up to him and I said, 'Are you going to ask me to dance or not?' And, we've been dancing ever since."

The couple married seven years ago, took the title of National Polka Festival Queen and King in 2011 and hope they have the stamina and the steps to earn the All-Star title this year. 

Saturday's festival highlights include the Polka Fest Run at 7 a.m., the parade at 10 a.m. in downtown Ennis and a Kolache eating contest at 1 p.m.

"That is so much fun to watch. Everybody trying to eat the fastest on the kolache," said Roka.

Sunday's big draw will be the street dance from noon to 4 p.m. in downtown.

Brave Combo, the Denton-based quintet, plays Saturday and Sunday nights. Roka said 19 polka bands will be there through the weekend. Yet at its heart and soul, the National Polka Festival is about celebrating Ennis' proud Czech heritage.

"Ennis was settled by Czechs back in 1872," Roka said. "They came because of the farmland, and this is a way to celebrate their heritage and culture. And this is also the way everyone can come to celebrate the happiest music there is."

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