Polka explodes into Albany's Polish Community Center

When Marty Swiatek was a kid, his parents took him to polka concerts and dances throughout his native Connecticut, and he was hooked.

There were often lots of other people his age in the crowd, he said, and together they'd enjoy the music and the scene.

It's such fun music, he said. "It makes everyone want to smile and dance."

When he was 13, Swiatek took up the trumpet and started playing polka music himself. Years later, he started his own polka band, and today he plays with the Rich Bobinski Orchestra, which is coming to Albany this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13, for the Polka Explosion at the Polish Community Center on Washington Avenue Extension. Swiatek encouraged newcomers to join the long-time polka fans who attend the celebration each year.

"Expect a good time," he said. "We really have a good, fun crowd."

The crowd typically numbers about 800 or 900 people for the weekend, said Frank Koslow, a former officer at the Polish Community Center. The polka weekend has been staged for the last seven or eight years, he said.

"It's very friendly. It's a great group of people to be around," Koslow said.

One of the nicest features of the community center is its dance floor, Koslow said, calling it one of the biggest in the area. That means that even with the big crowds, there will be plenty of room for everyone.

And if you don't know how to polka, that's not a problem, either. Koslow and Swiatek both said it's common for experienced dancers to show novices the ropes.

"It's a real comaraderie," Swiatek said.

People come from far and near to take part in the weekend. Koslow said dancers travel not only from within the Capital District, but from Connecticut and Massachusetts, lured by the "catchy" and "exciting" music.

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