National Polka Festival
The National Polka Festival is an annual parade and festival held in Ennis, Texas celebrating the Czech heritage in the city. The 3-day festival is held every Memorial Day weekend. Most of the party halls offer a lunch or dinner with Czech foods such as klobase (sausage), sauerkraut, and kolache, as well as live entertainment with traditional polka music and dancing.
The National Polka Festival started in 1967 when a group of men, Raymond Zapletal, Len Gehrig, and Joe Liska, all of Ennis, came together to honor the city's strong Czech heritage. The men had been to other cities and seen the large response to polka bands from the people of Czechoslovakian descent. They believed the people could be brought to Ennis for the same reasons. They needed approval from the Chamber of Commerce before they could begin the festival. The Chamber of Commerce Manager, Jack McKay, agreed that the idea could greatly benefit Ennis and the Czechoslovakian community in the area and approved of the festival. The festival began as a celebration in several fraternal halls in the beginning, but grew to a parade and street festival the next few years. The festival was a huge success in just a few years, with over 30,000 visitors attending the parade.
The festival continues in tradition and style similar to those early celebrations. The founders and their successors have insisted on maintaining the authenticity and values of the Czech tradition even today. All entries of the parade, street dancing, and bands performing are encouraged to have Czech themes and play Czech music. The festival has taken years of work from the Polka Festival Committee, Chamber of Commerce, and the Ennis Convention & Visitors Bureau. This festival today is one of the largest of its kind in the United States attracting as many as 50,000 people.
Over the years, the festival has had to change with the time. Today they have Grammy award winning bands such as Brave Combo, the Jodie Mikula Orchestra, Czech and Then Some, Ennis Czech Boys, Fritz Hodie and the Fabulous Six, Alex Meixner and many more bands from across Texas, the United States and the Czech Republic. There is a corporate sponsorship with Budweiser and the festival receives big advertising support from 96.3 FM KSCS. This is one of the only festivals that have three spacious halls with large dance floors where you can dance and enjoy anything from a good polka, waltz, or even a folk dance. The festival has one of the biggest parades in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. After the parade there is an abundance of activities held in downtown Ennis to be enjoyed by the entire family.
The three-day event is every Memorial Day weekend. Festivities begin with a 5K and 10K race and a 1K walk starting at 7 a.m. weather permitting. Tent vendors wind through the streets offering a variety of goods from hand crafted art to clothes and food. The party then moves to the community halls in town, Sokol, KJT and Knights of Columbus, where bands will perform and Czech food is offered throughout the weekend.
The parade will start promptly at 10 am, rain or shine. The parade begins on N. Clay Street and runs through downtown on Ennis Avenue, turning north onto Main street where it ends. The city will have closed off parking along the route and crowds will begin gathering around 9 o'clock to get a good vantage point. Anywhere along Ennis Avenue is good but the area around the intersection with Dallas Street provides some of the best background for good photos. Street parking is available on the adjacent downtown streets and on the grass along the railroad where the parade ends. The parade is fairly lengthy and chairs and umbrellas (for sun or rain) are advisable.
While it is tempting to browse the tents before the parade, it is better to stake out a good parade viewing place before hand and visit the tents afterwards. Weather permitting, live music will be playing by 1 o'clock not far from the food vendors. There is all the typical food fare like turkey legs, BBQ and funnel cakes but this is a special occasion for klobase sausage and kolache pastries.
After the parades, three of the community halls open with additional performances by various bands and dance troupes. Guests can pay at the door of each for admission or can purchase a weekend or day pass for all three. Each of the halls offer a generous Czech food menu.
- "National Polka Festival Homepage".
- "Ennis Chamber of Commerce".
- "Eyes on Texas".
- "Trip Advisor Review of National Polka Festival in Ennis, TX".