The beginning of the National Polka Festival® in Ennis, Texas began as an idea. Raymond Zapletal, Len Gehrig, and Joe Liska of Ennis had been to other cities and seen the large response to polka bands from the people of Czechoslovakian descent, and they believed the people could be brought to their small town of Ennis for the same reasons. So in 1967, Zapletal, Gehrig, and Liska brought their idea to the Chamber of Commerce manager Jack McKay. If the idea were to succeed, it would require the joint effort of the Chamber and the citizens of Ennis. Jack McKay agreed the idea could greatly benefit Ennis and the Czechoslovakian community in the area, and one of the largest polka festival in the country had its' beginning. Zapletal, Gehrig, and Liska agreed to take care of getting the bands for Ennis' fraternal halls and the Chamber agreed in turn to organize the parade and downtown festivities. Within three years the festival was a raging success with as many as 30,000 people attending from all over the country to enjoy music and entertainment at the four halls.
Our festival continues in tradition and style similar to those early celebrations. The founders and their successors have insisted on maintaining the authenticity and values of the Czech tradition even today. All entries of the parade, street dancing, and bands performing must have Czech themes and play Czech music. The festival has taken years of work from the Polka Festival Committee, Chamber of Commerce, and the Ennis Convention & Visitors Bureau.. But thanks to the work of these people, this festival today is one of the largest of its kind in the United States attracting as many as 50,000 people , still has the feel of "a little bit of old Czechoslovakia". Ennis is a very unique city in that it has three beautiful fraternal halls. The Czech citizens of Ennis support them. They hold many functions such as weddings, dances, anniversaries, meetings, banquets, and festivals. They are a huge part of the National Polka Festival® in Ennis, Texas.
Over the years the festival has had to change with the time, but all for the good. Today they have Grammy award winning bands, as well as bands from across Texas, the United States and the Czech Republic. This is one of the only festivals that have three spacious halls with large dance floors where you can dance and enjoy anything from a good polka, waltz, or even a folk dance. The festival has one of the biggest parades in the surrounding areas. After the parade there is an abundance of activities to be enjoyed by the entire family. You can ride the free shuttle buses from downtown to all of the fraternal halls. Thank you to everyone that has made all past years of Czech traditions and celebration possible and we look forward to many more years of fun, food, and dancing at the National Polka Festival® in Ennis, Texas!