It's all about promoting polka music and dance.
The International Polka Association has announced that it is bringing its next two annual Polka Festival and Convention to a place with strong roots in the genre: Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The association announced that the 53rd annual festival and convention in 2021 and the 54th annual convention in 2022 will be held in Cranberry Township at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel just off of Interstate 79.
The three-day festival this year will be held on Labor Day weekend from Sept. 3 to 5.
The man who helped bring the convention to the Keystone State is 20-year Cranberry resident Chris Bogdon, director of the association.
Bogdon said he thought bringing the festival to Cranberry would be a wonderful opportunity for the area.
“As a local person, I just thought this was an awesome opportunity for people to see Cranberry, and more importantly, Western Pennsylvania,” Bogdon said.
Bogdon said the festival and convention routinely draws about 1,000 attendees. He said there will be music, live bands, food and dancing throughout the three-day event as well as a hall-of-fame ceremony to recognize certain individuals who have made contributions to the genre. On Sunday, there will also be a Catholic Polka Mass featuring a local band and priest.
While the festival is still months away, Bogdon said he is hoping to partner with local businesses in the Cranberry and Pittsburgh areas to try and expand the festival beyond just the hotel.
“We're trying to work with Cranberry and Pittsburgh to promote the area,” Bogdon said. “We want to make it bigger than just renting the hotel.”
With the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on local businesses, Bogdon said he hopes that bringing this large amount of people into the area for a weekend will give those businesses some sort of boost.
Bringing the festival and convention to Southwestern Pennsylvania is also a way to honor the region's cultural roots, according to Bogdon.
“The majority of what I play is Polish polka, but there's a whole other genre of Slovenian polka,” Bogdon said. “Western PA is a melting pot of Polish and Slovenian, really the only other place like that other than Wisconsin.”
Originally from the South Hills area of Pittsburgh, Bogdon said his father taught him how to play the accordion in fifth grade, and he's been playing polka ever since.
To this day, Bogdon, 49, travels on the weekends with his band, Polka Country Musicians, to play shows.
“A lot of my co-worker, friends and family (who) don't get to travel will finally get to see it,” he said.
While there is a cost of admission to the festival, Bogdon said the association is a nonprofit organization.
“We're not doing this to make money,” he said. “This is to recognize, celebrate and promote polka.”