Video Vault: The last show of Polka Varieties, live from Geauga Lake in 1983

AURORA, Ohio - For 27 years, Polka Varieties on WEWS was the home of polka music on Cleveland TV.

September 18, 1983 marked the final Polka Varieties show and a special show it was.

Producer Walt Masky and the WEWS crew took the show to Geauga Lake for the Old World Oktoberfest.

This show mixes some great memories of a former TV show, a wonderful emcee, Paul Wilcox, and a northeast Ohio tradition, Geauga Lake.

The casual viewer will get a nice flavor for the long-running locally-produced show in the first segment. Fans of polka music and the show are in for a 60-minute treat with a little country music mixed in too.

I've clipped out all the commercials except for one or two promos in the hour show.

The show opens with a few bumps, but when we get inside to the music, we're off and running.

Art Perko and his Orchestra open with a song I believe is titled "Strike Up That Polka Band" followed by "Row, Row, Row"

Segment 2 features Georgie Cook and Teddy Hoyer. Host Wilcox points out, between the duo, they have 110 years in the polka music business - wow! They open their segment  with "Hoyer's Polka" and later play "I Wanna Call You Sweetheart".

Also in segment 2 is an interview with Polka legend Frankie Yankovic. They tell the audience Polka Varieties originally went on the air on WEWS in 1956, it began as "The Frankie Yankovic Show".

I've kept a promo for "The Merv Griffin Show" in at the beginning of segment 3. There is a  quick glimpse of Betty White in the promo.

The Geneva Grape Jamboree Slovenian Folk Dancers strut their stuff to the melodic sounds of Art Perko's band. Paul Wilcox takes us outside to meet Mr. and Mrs. Oktoberfest. Art Perko finishes the segment with "Smokin' Joe".

Wilcox does an interview with Al Cribari before throwing to the inside stage and a change of pace. Mike 'Mad Dog' Adams and Fiddler Hal do a bit of country music.

Half way through the show and we're back to polka music and dancing. Art Perko and His Orchestra play "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain". There are shots of the park interspersed here including a shot of The Big Dipper roller coaster.

Wilcox introduces KS 100 disc jockey Jon Olson to bring Mike 'Mad Dog' Adams and Fiddler Hal back on. KS 100 would become WGAR 99.5.

As the acts change position on stage, Wilcox has some fun with the park's mascot Geauga Dog and in the spirit of live TV, a toddler wanders into the show. Perko and company then return to play "The Bartender's Polka".

Segment 7 inside Festhaus 2 at the Old World Oktobest at Geauga Lake has an all-time favorite, "The Beer Barrel Polka". Wilcox closes this segment interviewing people outside on picnic tables on a beautiful September day.

The final show's last segment begins with The Geneva Grape Jamboree Slovenian Folk Dancers. Polka Varieties producer Walt Masky comes on stage to thank the WEWS crew and to announce the show would appear on another station in November.

I don't recall it appearing on any other Cleveland station.

The show closes with Art Perko again and the credits for the final show roll.




Print this article Back to Top