SOMERSET — Somerset’s Stanley Golembewski did not like to sing or dance. He did not think that anyone would be interested in the show he was producing. But 21 years later, his polka dancing show has not only reached Somerset, but also Taunton, Westport, New Bedford, western Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Montana, Ohio, Hawaii, Nova Scotia and Poland.
Polka dancing was originally a Czech folk dance and genre of dance music that has been adapted into different varieties, such as Polish polka-style, among others. Stanley and his wife, Annie, showcase many different styles of polka on the cable access show.
Stanley began producing the cable access show after he and Annie retired from their previous jobs.
“It’s a great hobby. It got us so immersed in doing something that we actually ended up loving it,” Stanley said. “We both became so committed to it.”
The cable access show, called “Polka Time with Stas,” is played on channel nine in Somerset every Tuesday at 3 p.m. and Wednesday at 8 p.m.
The birth of the polka dancing show started in 1995 when Annie invited Stanley on her local radio show on WHTV Radio (1400 A.M.) as a co-host. On the show every Sunday afternoon, they played polka music as well as reported the local news.
“We just got into that rhythm of polka music. We liked it so much,” Stanley said.
Annie, who was named “The Queen of Polkas,” retired last year from 20 years of hosting this radio show. Throughout the years, the time of her show has changed but in the last five to six years, her show aired from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
In the beginning, “I was worried that I would be microphone-shy,” says Annie, so she had her daughter, Heidi-Lynn, co-host the show with her because she studied communications in college. After four or five weeks, Annie had Stanley come on the show with her until she felt comfortable enough to host the show by herself.
She had guests on her show, such as famous polka bands and her family members.
A member of Annie’s favorite band, Rhythm and Sound, once called into the radio station. “I don’t know how he found out,” Annie said, “but he called and congratulated me on my 10th anniversary of the show. It was like if Elvis Presley called you.”
Stanley is a Polish-American and speaks fluent Polish. Annie taught at a Polish school for seven years and sings in Polish. “Polka song and dance is my heritage,” Stanley said.
In December 1995, Annie bought Stanley a video camera as a gift. He took the camera and filmed a polka dance in Connecticut. Even though Stanley thought no one would be interested in it, Annie encouraged Stanley to send it to the cable access station. She thought it would be nice for people who could not get out of their homes, for example, the elderly and the disabled.
The cable access station thought that the show had a chance, so they ran it for a month. It was so well-received that the show has not stopped in the 21 years since its premiere.
Back then, most cable access shows consisted of church ceremonies or school committee meetings. Stanley’s show was so different from anything being shown at the time: while there was no song or dance played on cable access, Stanley’s show consisted of one to two hours of straight song and dance.
Stanley believes that the uniqueness of his show as well as the fact that no one else was doing anything like it allowed him to find great success. “Back then, public access was only in its infancy. And there was no Youtube like you have today,” Stanley said.
Originally, filming and producing the show was only done by Stanley and Annie. However, over the years, they have taken on volunteers to help with the process.
In the beginning, Stanley would tape a new polka dance every week. However, now his library of shows reaches over 1,000. Therefore, he has not been doing much filming in recent years because he could run a polka program every week for 20 years without repeating any shows because his library is so massive.
Stanley and Annie have traveled up and down the East Coast filming polka dancers at local festivals and churches. The number of dancers on each show can range anywhere from 100 to 5,000. They have also traveled all over the country.
After Stanley and Annie film, they bring it back to their house. Stanley states that he never edits it because he wants to be precise. Also, he has never used a tripod; he only uses a hand-held camera to film. After the material is put onto a DVD, Annie and Stanley watch it before sending it to the cable access station.
Stanley and Annie have filmed over 175 polka bands. They were able to meet a lot of the polka bands and even got to know some personally. Annie said that this was her favorite part of the cable access show.
Polka singer Jimmy Sturr, an 18-time Grammy Award winner, actually visited Stanley and Annie in their home.
“We made so many good friends and, when they found out what we were doing, they loved the concept,” Stanley said. “They treated us wonderfully.”
Stanley even had stage privileges in which he would be allowed to film the polka bands on stage as they were performing. Some of the bands invited Stanley and Annie to introduce them at the start of their performance at Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun.
Some bands would ask Annie to sing on stage with them. “Here we are from Somerset, Massachusetts getting asked by these big-name polka bands if we’d like to sing a song with them. And we have,” Stanley said.
Besides doing the radio show and the cable access show, Annie and Stanley also act as polka promoters, holding dances twice a month for seven years in Tiverton, R.I. “Bands and dancers from different parts of the country came in,” Annie said.
Stanley has also sent hundreds of disks of his polka show to a music museum in Gdańsk, Poland that displays Americanized polkas.
Within three years of the start of the show, Stanley had about 35 stations up and running.
Stanley and Annie both danced on the polka show. Annie used to be a great polka dancer, but Stanley took lessons to learn how to dance the polka.
“For some reason, it just clicked in this area and it still does,” Stanley said.
Stanley will continue to produce his polka dancing cable access show for as long as he is healthy enough to do so. “As long as people want these programs, I’ll keep supplying them,” Stanley said.