The Twilight of Nebraska Polka

Today’s New York Times has a great article (“A Rural Dance Tradition in Twilight”) on the slow decline of polka in Nebraska. The piece explores polka’s place in Midwestern culture — “a music with little commercial viability but a strong social function” — and looks at the fans and musicians keeping the tradition alive. While the dwindling farming population plays a role in polka’s wane, some enthusiasts, like 68-year-old Darlene Kliment, blame themselves for not doing more to encourage the younger generation:

“It’s our generation’s fault… When we were growing up, our parents would take us to the dances. We’d fall asleep on the side of the stage, or in the booths. But then when our generation grew up, we got baby sitters.”

Of course, Nebraska isn’t alone; the same story is playing out in communities across the Midwest and East Coast. As the older, polka-loving generation fades, who will take their place on the dance floor?

Be sure to check out the excellent audio slideshow that accompanies the article. It includes photos from a polka dance at the Starlite Ballroom in Wahoo, as well as brief interviews with local Nebraska polka fans and musicians.

2 Comments:

  1. I would like to know if there are Polka dances or festivals near North Platte Nebraska? I am new to the area and my father had a Polka band in the 50′s. He is gone now and I sure miss Polkas. Thanks. Please no junk mail.

  2. No pun intended, Denise, but you might want to check out the Nebraska Czechs website. They might be able to point you towards some dances in your area.