The answer is just about everybody in Ennis, Texas (Pop. 18,513) and the estimated 50,000 people who will be there for the 50th Annual National Polka Festival on Memorial Weekend, May 27-29, 2016. Born out of an idea by Raymond Zapletal, Len Gehrig, and Joe Liska of Ennis to celebrate their Czech heritage, these founders of the National Polka Festival presented their idea to the Ennis Chamber of Commerce in 1967. The Chamber loved it and the rest they say, is history.
The three (3) day festival draws polka loving enthusiast from all over the world to celebrate, the music (polka), dancing, food, religious customs and tradition of Czechoslovakia. Ennis, Texas promises you will experience “a little bit of the Czech Lands” throughout their historic downtown and in the three spacious air conditioned halls (KJT, KC and Sokol Halls). Locals and visitors are encouraged to wear traditional Czech kroj (that’s ‘costumes’ for those who do not speak Czech). Festivities begin at 7 p.m. on Friday night at the King and Queen Dance Contest. However, the festival gets well underway on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Saturday morning National Polka Festival parade through downtown Ennis. See floats, bands (including the award winning Ennis High School Marching Band) and lots of colorful Czech kroj. There will be lots of polka music and dancing. This year Grammy Award winners, Brave Combo will also be performing. So put on your dancing shoes and kick off whatever else is on your feet and join the good folks of Ennis for the time of your lives!
Ennis, Texas is located in Ellis County on HWY 45, south of Dallas and north of Houston. It was founded in 1872 and named for Cornelius Ennis, an official of the Houston and Central Texas Railroad (H&TC). Cornelius Ennis also served as Mayor of Houston from 1856–57. Settled by immigrants from the war-torn Confederacy and others from the war-ravaged European nations that later became Czechoslovakia, Ennis built three lakes to provide water for the railroad and community in 1892, 1895, and 1940. The local cotton industry grew as a result and by 1920 over a 150,000 bales of cotton were ginned and shipped from Ellis County, more than any other county in the United States. So much so, that the Ennis Chamber of Commerce adopted the slogan, “Where Railroads and Cotton Fields Meet”.
Ennis is also the home of the annual Texas Bluebonnet festival in the month of April. In 1997 the State Legislature designated Ennis as the “Official Bluebonnet City of Texas” and home to the “Official Bluebonnet Trail of Texas.” Infamous Bonnie and Clyde often visited Ennis with Barrows having family in the nearby area and a local rancher once warned Texas troubadour Ernest Tubb’s father, “That damn guitar’s going to be the ruin of that boy.” Ginger Rogers lived for a time in Ennis recalling it as “a quiet place and very pretty, just a little country town with tree-lined streets.” Lawyer, Hattie Leah Henenberg, who was appointed to the All-Woman Texas Supreme Court of 1925, was also a native of Ennis.
For more information on the 50th Annual National Polka Festival call the Ennis Convention & Visitors Bureau 972-878-4748 or 888-366-4748.
What do you know about Texas?