Birnamwood Polka Days returns for third year

Community pulls together for three days of music, food and fun times
Kevin Passon

Enjoy what is technically the last weekend of spring by kicking up your heels and sliding along the dance floor at the annual Birnamwood Polka Days on June 14-16.

Headquartered at Chet and Emil’s, 388 Main St., Birnamwood, the event will feature hardwood dance floors inside and outdoors.

“We started it (Birnamwood Polka Days) back up three years ago, and we’ve had amazing feedback from the community,” said Tanya Tautges, lead organizer.

Birnamwood Polka Days began back in the 1970s, with significant support from Emil Praslowicz of Chet and Emil’s. Years later, it began to falter, changed over to country music and then disappeared.

A few years ago, as Tautges and her family celebrated her son’s graduation, they featured polka music and opened it to the public. Birnamwood Polka Days was back on track.

With six on the group’s board of directors and 15 committee members, the nonprofit group relies on community support, business sponsorships and grant money to host the three-day festival.

Tautges has been performing polkas with her family since the age of 9, often at Chet and Emil’s.

Entertainment on June 14 will feature The New Generation and TNT from 4 p.m. to midnight in the tent, and The Music Connection from 5-9 p.m. in the ballroom.

The Polka Days Queen and Princess crownings will be held at 7:30 p.m.

The three queen candidates and four process candidates sell raffle tickets, and the one in each category who sells the most tickets earns the respective crown. Because there is no admission to the festival, proceeds from the raffle tickets are used to support the event. There are two winners picked in this 50/25/25 raffle.

On June 15, music in the tent will be Zander’s Music RayMakers from noon to 3 p.m., and Steve Burclaw’s New Polish Sounds and the Polkatown Sound Reunion from 3-11 p.m. AJ and the Gang featuring Andrew Grawien will perform from 1-5 p.m. in the ballroom.

Food trucks, refreshments, raffles, Birnamwood polka merchandise and more will be available in Birnamwood Park, adjacent to Chet and Emil’s.

A craft and vendor show will be in the park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 15.

The village will also be the site of community rummage sales from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 14 and from 7:30 a.m. to noon June 15.

June 16 is Family Fun Day.

A church service will begin at 9:30 a.m. under the tent. Starting at noon, enjoy the parade, petting zoo, bounce houses, children’s games and more. The Polka Connection will perform from 1-5 p.m.

Tautges estimated attendance last year was about 1,000, not bad considering the village’s population is about 800.

She still gets choked up when talking about the parade.

“You come around the corner on Main Street and see people lined up all the way to the end,” she said. “It’s something I only dreamed of before, and now to see everyone there, it’s just so cool.”

She said she knows of attendees from as far away as Massachusetts, Colorado, Michigan and Utah.

Birnamwood Polka Days organizers also join together to host a Frost Fest in February and sponsored the village’s first-ever Christmas parade in 2023.

For more information, call 715-253-3277 or 715-449-2226.