'Happy music': People from all over head downtown for PolkaFest's second day

·3 min read

Jun. 5—The diversity of music played at Johnstown's PolkaFest is what brought genre lovers Mark Kuhns, Andy Havrilak and Steve Thomas downtown this year for the event.

"It's happy music," Kuhns said on Saturday, the festival's second day at Peoples Natural Gas Park. "When you hear a polka, if you don't smile, there's something wrong with you."

All three men are DJs from around the state who often play polka music on their shows. Thomas and Havrilak hail from the eastern part of Pennsylvania, residing in Allentown and Pottstown, respectively, while Kuhns lives in Greensburg.

It was Kuhns' first time to the annual event, but the other two are repeat visitors. Havrilak said he's been to Johnstown six times for PolkaFest.

"You can't beat the festival," he said. "Plus, the people around here are just welcoming."

Thomas, who was often found on the dance floor this weekend, added that Johnstown is one of the friendliest places he's been, and Kuhns said PolkaFest is one of the nicest polka-based events to which he's been.

An example of that friendly nature was the quick thinking of festival-goers Angie and Bobby Jacobson, who provided CPR on Friday to another attendee who'd passed out.

According to a Facebook post, Angie Jacobson, an emergency medical technician, and her husband, a volunteer firefighter, took turns providing chest compressions until emergency personnel arrived. By the time the man was placed in an ambulance, he had a pulse and was breathing on his own.

"We were at the right place at the right time last night," Angie Jacobson said on Saturday. "We continue to pray for the victim and his family."

As far as they've heard, the man is in an ICU, but is stable and alert.

Saturday's festivities kicked off at noon with local favorite Rosie and the Jammers, who've been playing the jamboree since it started in 1998 — with the exception of last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We love it," frontwoman Rosie Sida said. "It's a good time."

The five-piece band played crowd favorites such as "In Heaven There is no Beer" and "The Johnstown Polka," along with some classic pop songs, such as "Brown Eyed Girl."

Sida agreed with Kuhns that polka is happy music.

"There's no way you're sitting out there and not tapping your toe," she said.

The musician has been playing since she was 8 years old and performs on the keyboard and "button box." She said she loves coming to PolkaFest, especially for the food, dancing and people.

She's not the only one. At the start of the festival's second day, crowds of people continued to pour in.

For Elzbieta Pastwa, who's originally from Poland and moved to Johnstown six years ago, the festival was a treat. Pastwa noted that the music connects people and said she enjoyed hearing the Polka Family Band play the night before.

She was also glad to see the varying ages of those who attended the event.

"It is for everybody," Pastwa said.