Polka music, dancing create 'family' vibe at senior dances


February 14, 2020

Lois Johnson

The dance floor was filled for every song at the senior dance Feb. 5. The dances are held 1-4 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays at the Cloquet VFW.

Dancers twirled to the music of Florian Chmielewski at the Cloquet VFW last Wednesday afternoon, like so many other Wednesdays before.

The dance floor fills up for every song played by Lindy's Band, named in honor of the late Lorren Lindevig, and led by International Polka Association Hall of Fame accordionist Florian Chmielewski. At the age of 93, the former state senator and lifetime musician is still playing and still drawing crowds for his old-time accordion music. Terry Solquist, Florian's brother-in-law, came from Mora to accompany him on the drums.

The twice monthly dances, held 1-4 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of the month, are enjoyed by many senior citizens and adults around the region, including a group from the Pinewood, a day training and habilitation center.

"We have people that come from Meadowlands, Proctor, Silver Bay and Superior," said Marilyn Kiehl, Florian's close friend.

Jim Magdziarz, who grew up, and is still a neighbor of Florian's, near Sturgeon Lake, enjoys coming to the dances.

"I've made a lot of new friends here," he said. "We go to the dances and meet a lot of nice people."

Jim comes with his friend Theresa, who lives near him, he said.

Susan Bonneville brings her 87-year-old mom, avid polka fan and Cloquet resident Maria Schroeder, to the dances.

"I've come to the dances for many years," Schroeder said. "I used to drive from McGregor. Lorren Lindevig used to play then. I used to go to all of the polkafests. I get up on Saturday mornings and listen to Patty Chmielewski (Florian's daughter) from 9 to 11 a.m. on KDAL AM radio. I usually listen to polka music on Sunday afternoons too."

Rainbow and Teresa Trout of Meadowlands go to all the dances.

"I got bad legs, but we go anyhow!" Teresa said.

Teresa will be 94 next month, she said. Her younger husband is 87. They met at a dance at the Carlton County fair. The couple will be celebrating their second wedding anniversary on Feb. 17.

The dancers took a break for lunch in the midafternoon to celebrate Florian's upcoming birthday with cake.

Lois Johnson

Florian Chmielewski and Terry Solquist entertain the dancers with their music.

"I've been playing the accordion for 75 years," Florian after the dance ended. "Our TV show went on the air 65 years ago in 1955 and aired all over the country. They are bringing it back and showing it again starting soon on Channel 21 at 11 a.m. on Saturday mornings."

The band resumed playing after the break. As the afternoon wound down, the dancers formed a big circle and someone held up an American flag in the middle of the circle. The musicians played patriotic songs while the dancers sang along.

And then came Chmielewski's final song, "Beer Barrel Polka." He always ends with that, said Marilyn.

As Marilyn looked over the group of people that were preparing to leave, she summed it up.

"We are like one big family," she said.

The next senior dance is Wednesday, Feb. 19 from 1-4 p.m. and also features Lindy's Band.


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