ENNIS – This year’s 45th annual National Polka Festival was dedicated to the Larry Laznovsky, a long-time supporter and promoter of the Ennis Czech community. Joining festival committee director Danny Zapletal was Ennis Mayor Russell Thomas and the committee members as they presented a plaque of appreciation to members of the Laznovsky family during Friday night’s kick-off dance to the weekend celebration.

Accepting the memorial plaque for was Lori Laznovsky, who was joined by her mother Larry Laznovsky’s wife, Lil. 

“On March 26 this year, we lost a very important friend, the best friend to the Czech community who was a part of 14 Czech organizations,” Zapletal said, saying Laznovsky was a “very close” personal friend, a mentor and one who helped put together many of the past festivals.

Zapletal also announced a scholarship in Laznovsky’s honor.

“This is the fourth named scholarship,” Zapletal said of the National Polka Festival’s scholarship program.

With the presentation done, Thomas welcomed the near capacity crowd on hand at the Sokol Activity Center, saying, “This is a great night for polka. Let’s dance.”

A capacity crowd filled the Sokol Hall for this year’s start of a weekend of a Czech   celebration.

“We love to see the children and the young people come out. They hopefully will keep the Czech tradition alive,” Zapletal said as the dance floor filled with all ages and many families dancing together.

A main event of the Friday night celebration was the crowning of this year’s king and queen. Before the 2011 contestants took the floor, last year’s honorees, Jon Marek and Angelia Adamcik made their final round as king and queen before being joined by kings and queens of past years.

Fourteen couples vied for the honors of representing the 2011 National Polka Festival as its ambassadors in the coming year. After three rounds, the field was narrowed down to three couples, with David and Diane Liska of Ennis ultimately crowned the 2011 festival king and queen. Beginning their reign, the Liskas took their ceremonial solo dance before other dancers joined them in celebration.

The Liskas met during a vacation trip to Czechoslovakia four years ago.

“Our very first polka was in the Czech Republic in a town named Vesela,” they said. We got married and have been dancing every since.”

The festival draws polka fans from across the state and the country. Alan and Meredith Czarnek came from New Jersey and were joined by her father, Danny Slovak from Montana. Alan Czarnek, a musician known as the Texas Dutchman, attended his first National Polka Festival in 1969 when he was 16 and has attended almost every one since.

The annual polka princess was named from a drawing done by Adamcik and Johnnie Krajca, with this year’s honoree, Autum Glenn, the daughter of Robert and Patrine Glenn of Ennis, assisting in the crowning of the new king and queen.

The night’s celebration continued to the music of the Jodie Mikula Orchestra.

Saturday’s festivities continued with the annual festival parade downtown, followed by the official opening ceremonies.

This year’s grand marshal was Karel Schwarzenberg, Czech Republic first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.

Schwarzenberg took part in the opening ceremonies, recognizing five veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during the liberation of Czechoslovakia in World War II and post-war efforts there. 

Schwarzenberg and the dignitaries traveling with him also visited the three Czech and fraternal halls, with meet-and-greet sessions at each.

All three of the halls – KJT Auditorium, Knights of Columbus and Sokol – will be open through Sunday with bands playing at each.

For the complete schedule, visit online at www.nationalpolkafestival.com.