TONY PETKOVSEK “America’s Polka Ambassador”

TONY PETKOVSEK

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Funeral Mass for Tony Petkovsek St Vitus Parish Cleveland, Ohio

Service for Tony Petkovsek at the Slovenian National Home February 22, 2019

“America’s Polka Ambassador”

August 21, 1941 – February 14, 2019

Tony Petkovsek, who began his career on Slovenian polka radio in1961, an unprecedented 57 years in broadcasting, passed away at the age of 77 this week. His popular music and community service show, which he produced and announced with his own sponsors, continues today in his name and tradition, featuring Cleveland Style and Slovenian Folk music, interspersed with interviews of civic, travel and entertainment personalities.

Tony P 1For 50 years, the radio programs were broadcast live daily and on location from Kollander World Travel, formerly Tony’s Polka Village on East 185th St. in Cleveland Ohio. He later moved the broadcast to his condominium radio studio in Fairport Harbor and most recently was heard broadcasting from his home at St. Vitus Village in Cleveland.

Prior to 1981 he was on the FM stations of WXEN, WZAK, WBOE and Cleveland Public Radio WCPN.

Over his career, he interviewed the many polka music leaders locally, nationally and internationally including Frank Yankovic, Lawrence Welk, Bobby Vinton plus renowned folk artists Lojze Slak and Slavko Avsenik of Slovenia. He taped conversations with two presidents of Slovenia and national news correspondants here in the United States.

He was a former partner and vice president at the long established Kollander World Travel Inc. (a division of Kompas Tours in Europe).

In 1967, Tony originated the concept of the “Polka Tour” and as a result, arranged and co-hosted thousands of travelers to see the world, accompanied by polka bands from across the country. The tours took talented musicians and bands on planes, cruise ships, motor coaches, trains throughout the world, and tours through all of Europe, South America, the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, and even Australia, all guided by “America’s Polka Ambassador”, Tony Petkovsek.   He traveled to his beloved Slovenia over 50 times throughout his life.

Tony established a core volunteer booster group, his own “Cleveland Slovenian Radio Club” committee. Many community projects ensued over the years raising thousands of dollars through “Radiothons” for the Slovene Home for the Aged and for the then new independent country of Slovenia to be recognized by the US government in 1991.

In 1963, Thanksgiving became a polka holiday weekend for Clevelanders and travelers alike, commemorating Tony’s initial broadcast on Thanksgiving Day, 1961. His Radio Club sponsored these Thanksgiving Festival events, originally held at the Slovenian National Home on St. Clair Avenue, followed by St. Joseph High School on E. 185th Street, and for the last several decades, the event has continued in Tony’s tradition at the Marriott Hotel, downtown Cleveland, attracting thousands of fans from over 20 States, Canada, and Europe as the premiere Cleveland-Slovenian style event.

He has been an active founding member of the American Slovenian Polka Foundation which established the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame in Euclid. He is a Lifetime Achievement Award Winner and Chairman Emeritus of that organization.Tony P 2

In former years, Tony also helped organize some of Cleveland’s largest outdoor festivals on E. 185th Street, known as the “Old World Festival“ as the volunteer entertainment chairman, serving on the board of the Northeast Shores Development Corporation. As a former resident and businessman in the E. 185th Street, former Cleveland Mayors Voinovich and White appointed Tony to the Board of Zoning Appeals at Cleveland City Hall. He later served Governor Voinovich on the Ohio Arts Council and also emceed two gubernatorial inaugurations in Columbus for his longtime friend George Voinovich.

Throughout his career, he received over 100 awards and proclamations presented by international, national, state, county and city representatives and organizations for his contributions to the community. In 1967, he was named “Slovenian Man of the Year” by the federation of Slovenian Homes becoming the youngest person ever to receive this great honor. With the distinction of hosting America’s longest daily polka and nationality radio show, he was inducted into the prestigious National Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1991.

He considers the Slovenian polka community as his true “family” and is grateful for the support he has received.

His popular polka music and community service show, continues in his name and tradition on Saturdays from Noon till 3PM on WINT-1330AM and 101.5 FM and also simulcasts worldwide on the internet at www. 247PolkaHeaven.com, hosted by Joey Tomsick, Denny Bucar and Joe Valencic.

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Cleveland.com / Cleveland Plain Dealer Obituary

 

 

 

 

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