Polka is both a dance and a music genre. Its origins date back to 1830s Bohemia and it was brought to America soon after, when Europeans began immigrating to the United States. Still a dynamic form of music in America, it is recognized today with polka radio stations and special festivals. While Montana may not be perceived as a polka hotbed, the state hosts two popular annual polka festivals to celebrate the genre.
Big Sky Polkafest
The Big Sky Polkafest is an annual event hosted by the Big Sky Polka Club. It occurs each year over Labor Day weekend at the Shrine Auditorium in Billings, a city in the south-central portion of the state. The 2011 festival was the 18th annual event. According to the Big Sky Polka Club, more than 500 polka dancers attend the event each day of the festival, coming from 35 U.S. states and Canada.
Northwest Montana Polka Festival
The city of Kalispell is home to the Northwest Montana Polka Festival. The three-day summer event, which is typically held in mid-July, features entertainment and dancers for polka lovers and also caters to people unfamiliar with the genre who just want to come out and have a good time. Food and beverages are available on site and daily door prizes are given away to festival participants. The event is appropriate for all ages.
The Big Sky Polkafest kicks off with a polka jam session and features four polka dance bands over the duration of the three-day event. The Northwest Montana Polka Festival also features live entertainment and polka bands; however, aside from polka, it features musicians performing country, Latin, Cajun, Hawaiian and big ban music. Participants are welcome to dance to the music or just watch and enjoy.
Although both the Big Sky Polka and Northwest Montana Polka festivals charge admission fees, the events also offer one-, two- and three-day ticket options. For the Northwest Montana Polka Festival, as of 2008, one-day tickets were $9, two-day tickets $16 and three-day tickets $23. Those ages 13 to 18 were half-off and children 12 and under were free when accompanied by a parent. The Big Sky Polkafest offers different ticket prices for different days, such as $15 on Friday, $18 on Saturday and $10 on Sunday. Guests can also purchase three-day passes for $35.
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