The Chardon Polka Band entertains at Dyngus Day

CLEVELAND — It is the 12th year Clevelanders have celebrated Dyngus Day and from the start, The Chardon Polka Band has been a headlining hit.

What You Need To Know

  • It is the 12th year Dyngus Day has been celebrated in Cleveland
  • The festivities are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Easter Monday
  • Dyngus Day includes plenty of Polish dancing, paczki, piwo and polka at Gordon Green

The group has geared up for the Easter Monday festivities.

They may not be what many people picture when they think about a polka band, but the group takes pride in their uniqueness.

Jake Kouwe (accordion), Mike Franklin (banjo/guitar/yodeling), Bob Young (drums), Mitch Lawrence (saxophones/clarinet) and Brian Brazier (tuba) make up The Chardon Polka Band.

“People ask us all the time. Do you guys like your jobs? The answer is simple. No. We don’t like our jobs. We love our jobs. We’ve got one of the best jobs in the world,” said Kouwe. “It’s playing music. And not only music, one of the happiest musics that ever has been invented in this galaxy: Polka music.”

At age 16, Kouwe created the band while attending Chardon High School.

“I just find it to be a fun and zangy instrument,” Kouwe said. “I saw one on TV when I was a wee lad at 14 years of age in Ohio and I saw the accordion and I said boy, that looks like an interesting time. Maybe that’s what I’ll do with the rest of my life.”

His love for the accordion and performance turned into a career that spans two decades. His basement band room is full of memorabilia that he collected over the years.

“This is a piece of history right here. This is the original Chardon High School Polka Band tuba, all the way back from 2003, back in the day. It’s made it a long way and now it’s chained to the wall in my basement because we believe in history. We’re kind of like a cosmic gumbo in that way. Cosmic gumbo. That’s what we’re always saying when we’re here together,” Kouwe said.

Their toe-tapping tunes attract crowds at events around the country. The crew performs in the Oktoberfest circuit and at weddings, nursing homes, schools, festivals and more.

The band has recorded more than eight studio albums.

“We just got a lot of history down here. We love to preserve history. We love to make history,” Kouwe said.

The Polish holiday Dyngus Day is a favorite. It celebrates Easter through Polish culture, heritage and traditions.

“Kind of the start of the work season. Dyngus Day kind of marks the start of the rest of our lives,” Lawrence said.

The guys have formed an eclectic family bonded by their shared love of polka music.

During Dyngus Day, The Chardon Polka Band will take the stage from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Then another local favorite, The Don Wojtila Band, will take over.

There’s plenty of Polish dancing, paczki, piwo and polka happening at Gordon Green until 8 p.m.