Saturday morning polka


We’re all familiar with the scenario: it’s a Saturday morning, you hop into the car to tackle errands, tune in to your beloved station, 88.1WZIP, and are greeted by the lively sounds of polka music pouring from the speakers.

The Saturday Morning Polka Show on WZIP has been an Akron staple since August of 1989. Originally the show was played on Sundays, but over the years it has moved to Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon.

This year the show celebrates its 35-year anniversary. Saturday Morning Polka is run by four individuals, Matt Schafer ‘67, Fred
Carty, Tracy Stevanov and John Snelick, all with a passion for polka music.

Polkas (1).jpgPictured above: Matt, Tracy,
John and Fred of Saturday Morning Polka.

Schafer has been with the show since its inception.

“A lot of people enjoy polka music. We play a variety of polka music — Polish, Slovakian, Italian, German. Our listeners have these backgrounds, and we try to serve that need. Some of the lyrics are even in the ethnic tongue and people relate to that,” said Schafer, explaining how the music reminds them of home. “We have the request line as well. People call in for birthdays, anniversaries and for people who passed away.”

The numbers are there, and they show that listeners are alive and well for Saturday Morning Polka.

“Just because the polkas and waltzes that Matt, Tracy, John and Fred play are not current, does not mean that the listeners are trapped in another era. They are also listening online from all over the country. We had to change our streaming service a few years ago because it was jammed on Saturday mornings, and we were paying overage fees,” said Chris Keppler ‘91, ‘14, general manager of WZIP. “We are also podcasting the first hour of the show each week. In the last 2.5 years, the podcast has had about 26,000 downloads, has reached all 50 states and more than 50 countries.”

The polka show helps fill a cultural void in the community for people around Northeast Ohio who still cherish the music. That is part of the basis for the FCC granting a license to the University, because the station offers programming that is unlikely to be heard on any commercial radio station.

Matt schafer sr.jpgMatt Schafer '67

“There are people who appreciate us showcasing ethnic backgrounds and the various styles of polka music. There was one caller who called to tell us we are her ‘entertainment lifeline’ every time she listens to the radio,” shared Schafer. “There’s a real need for it and we do have quite a following.”

There is no end in sight for this long-standing radio show, and the ratings continue to improve. Thousands of people tune in to the broadcast every week. While most would believe the polka show attracts an audience of 65-plus years, that age group makes up only 20 percent of the audience. In fact, nearly 15 percent of the polka listeners are between 12 and 24 years old.

“We will continue to be on the air as long as the University will have us,” said Schafer.

Story by Bree Sabin