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A swingin’ time at Polka Daze

Stan Cottam and Elsa Miller drove five hours from Ontario to Ottertail for Polka Daze. They met years ago while dancing to Leon Olsen at a similar event. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS

Festive polka music filled the air last weekend as the Ottertail Lions held its fourth annual Polka Daze celebration.

From Sept. 5-7, hundreds of polka lovers made the trek to the wooden dance floor and yellow tent which were set up in the city park.

“This year has been a fight with the weather,” said Jerry Smith, the secretary of the Ottertail Lions. While 250 people arrived for Saturday’s share of the festivities, Smith assumed the heat was keeping others at home.

Residents from Mesa, Ariz., Nestor Falls, Ontario, and Oak Lake, Manitoba danced along with locals from Frazee, New York Mills and Battle Lake.

“A lot of these people grew up with a dance hall where they would go out on Fridays,” said Smith. “These dances are popular because they remember having fun years ago.”

Fun was in no short supply as couples and friends danced, laughed and sweated together.

A massive tent was set up to shade the area. Electric fans were hung from the tent’s poles and placed on the ground to ease the heat. Dancers also passed smaller fans around the tables in order to stay somewhat cool.

 Lions volunteers were constantly working in the background to provide food, water and other refreshments.

“I just want to say ‘thank you’ to the volunteers,” said Stan Cottam.

He and a friend, Elsa Miller, drove five hours from Canada in order to attend Polka Daze.

“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have had a reason to come down here,” he said. “It’s a lot of work for them just to put up and take down this tent. Without them, this event probably wouldn’t happen.”

Proceeds collected from admission and concessions will go toward scholarships for area students and events, said Smith.

Elizabeth Huwe