Polka in South Range

Community upholds Copper Country cultural tradition

SOUTH RANGE — While communities throughout the Copper Country seem to be letting longstanding cultural identities slip by the wayside, South Range, in Adams Township, is the last holdout for traditional polka music and dancing.

After approximately 10 years of inactivity, South Range Fourth of July Committee president Mike Renier said his organization has scheduled the Second Annual Octoberfest fundraiser for Saturday, Oct. 1 at the South Range Veterans of Foreign Wars Post Range Lounge. The event will feature traditional polka music by well-known accordionist Jim Enretti and his wife, Teri, who plays standup bass.

Renier said the polka dance is from 3-6 p.m. at the lounge, where traditional German cuisine will also be available.

Renier said last year’s Octoberfest was a huge success, which is no surprise. For years,

Renier said that about 10 years back, the Fourth of July Committee was having a difficult time finding volunteers, but in recent years more volunteers have stepped forward and the committee is strong once again.

Difficulty with finding volunteers was one of the primary reasons the Annual South Range Polkafest ended about a decade ago. At that time, the Polkafest was celebrated in the village’s community hall when Brian Juntikka was one of its organizers.

Juntikka, himself an accomplished musician on both the piano accordion and the “button box,” has played with many of the country’s top polka performers, including Frank Yankovic, to whom Juntikka was a very close friend.

Juntikka recalls many annual performances by Yankovic at the community hall. He also played at Laurium’s arena.

Enrietti was inducted into the Michigan State Hall of Fame by Juntikka, who was inducted a few years later.

Enrietti and his wife play frequently throughout the Copper Country, and he made a particular note of the last holdout in the region for weekly polka music.

“If you want to see traditional polka dancing in the Copper Country,” he said, “you need to visit the South Range Eagles club on Sundays.”

Enrietti said that to the best of his knowledge, the Eagles is the last place in the Upper Peninsula that hosts traditional polka on a regular basis.


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