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Polka party hits the right beat for patrons at Batavia Downs

By Howard B. Owens


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Once the accordion and brass kick in backed by the drummer's strong 2/4 beat, you know it's polka time. And it's hard not to smile.

There were indeed no frowns in the crowd at Batavia Downs on Thursday night for a taping of WBBZ’s Polka Buzz featuring The Buffalo Touch.

"Polka is happy music," said band leader Ken Machelski between sets. "It's fun music. You know, people get up and dance, they laugh, the songs are all about having fun --  drinking beer songs, whatnot, you know, all about the ladies, you know, pretty, pretty ladies."

Polka has a rich and varied history and many cultures of the world have adopted the 2/4 time signature for their own variation of party music.  The Buffalo Touch, thrice nominated for Grammy Awards, has developed its own style of polka over its 27-year history.

"You mention polka to somebody that doesn't know anything about it and the first thing pops to mind, the most popular is the oompa-pa. Oompa-pa. Oompa-pa,  you know the German thing," Machelski. "And that's fine. That's a Polka 2/4 beat. The Italians have a Polka. Everybody has a Polka. But ours is a Polish Polka. Our type of music has been created and evolved from songs from Poland but done American style. We add our own American twist, you know, with a couple of horns, and concertina, the accordion, piano, drums, with the ensemble. It gives us a unique sound Americanized sound."

Batavia Downs Director of Marketing Ryan Hasenauer said he was more than pleased with the event, and suggested Batavia Downs may do another polka party again soon.

"We've got all these people that are enjoying some great Polish music," Hasenauer said. "We've got the Polish specials at the Homestretch Grill, some Polish vodka, some Polish beer and a sold-out hotel. What more can you ask for? It's great. I look around and everybody's having a good time."

Not bad, he said, for an event that Batavia Downs and WBBZ decided to partner on less than six weeks ago.

"One of the things that we pride ourselves on at Batavia Downs is we're nimble, we're quick, we're able to kind of, you know, find an event that we want to do, talk to the right people, and then put it down very quickly," he said.










​Photos by Howard Owens.

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