CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – April showers didn’t stop Western New York’s polka faithful from gathering earlier this month for a taping of “Polka Buzz,” a dance show that is locally produced and airs on television station WBBZ.
The show originates from the Potts Banquet Hall in the Rossler Plaza here in Town. Tonight on stage – Rare Vintage.
“It succeeded any dream and goofy thought we had when Angelo and I first sat down and started talking about doing this. It was one of those fun gut things,” said Chris Musial, Vice President and General Manager of locally owned WBBZ-TV.
Musial and Angelo Cicatello, Vice President of Sales at the station, are both of Polish-American descent, “We just had a feeling that this was gonna click,” added Musial.
The show’s monthly taping draws polka lovers from across Cheektowaga, Western New York and even Canada.
“I haven’t missed one yet and that’s what, ‘a year and a half now?'” said Mary Corte of Beamsville, Ontario. “I come because of the music and the dancing, and my friends, look at all the friends I have. If I can’t dance with one, I’ll dance with the other.”
Corte and her polka friends bounce around the dance floor, shifting rapidly from one foot to the other in lockstep with the polka beat. The television lights and cameras surrounding the dance floor don’t faze them – its just a polka dance party on a Thursday night in Cheektowaga.
Behind the scenes – the show’s director is cutting cameras while an audio engineer makes sure the sound is just right. The production control room is setup among bottles of white wine, restaurant supplies and a very large cooler.
“We’re back in a closet hallway in between the bar and the new deli,” laughs Musial. “People go through with giant baloneys and hams to get to the slicer and you’re hearing the clinking and clanking of the glasses from the bar…Everybody is having fun. They don’t care where the heck they’re setup. They just want to make it work and make it happen and do really, really good television.”
WBBZ records four episodes of the show on a typical night. Local polka booster and host of Drive-Time Polkas on WKRL and WECK radio, Ron Dombrowski is the host of “Polka Buzz.”
“We’re having a ball. People are coming out every month and we’re drawing 200, 300 people at the Potts Banquet Hall,” said Dombrowski.
“One hand is helping the other and I’m not at all surprise about the success of (“Polka Buzz”) being that my seven day a week polka show that I started with Big Steve back in 1986 – and i’m still doing it in 2017 – its still working,” added Dombrowski.
Cicatello and Dombrowski work together to decide what bands will appear on the show. There are 13 tapings throughout the year and that means good business for restaurateur Danny Potts.
“I don’t care where I go. ‘Mr. Potts I see you on television.’ I showed a fish fry on television and the people go, ‘hey I saw that fish on the television,’ its been great for business,” said Potts.
“Polka music is good and strong. A lot of younger people are coming around and so are the older people. They just love to see themselves on television, honest. They wave, some don’t wave, some look at the camera, and they come, month after month after month. Its just amazing.”
It would appear that WBBZ has hit on a winning formula, local. “Local hosts, local participants, local dancers, local bands, local bowlers, local contestants, local scorekeepers. That’s where we have found our home and the ability to be in people’s homes and embraced,” said Musial.
Boasting six locally produced shows like, “Polka Buzz”, “Bragging Rights”, “Beat the Champ”, and “Daily Buzz 716” – the small group of television veterans compiled from local network affiliates create quality television in an economical and efficient way.
“We can say that we’re going to shift some people’s shifts and were going to come out here and spend the night and then tomorrow morning we’re going to be back in the studio doing the “Daily Buzz 716″ and in the afternoon we’re going to be doing another program,” added Musial.
The success and popularity of their local programming has allowed the station to make substantial investments in equipment to produce programming from their studio in the Eastern Hills Mall and on the road.
“We’re going to have some real fun on the road this summer,” added Musial.
But, its going to be tough to top the fun had at a “Polka Buzz” taping.
“Its a riot. It brings a smile to your face and a tap to your toe. Whether its Ronnie goofing around and dancing in front of the camera waiting for his time on the air or me and Angelo and John Di Sciullo running up to the stage and talking to the band and getting the crowd all whipped up and you’re going on your third or forth show…its a hot place,” said Musial.
The “Polka Buzz” airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on WBBZ-TV. Check WBBZ’s Facebook page for taping information.