Vernon: Dancin' at the Downs

The carpeted floor at the Vernon Downs racetrack bar Ring-Eyed Pete's doesn't stop determined dancers from kicking up their heels every Wednesday afternoon, as they revel in the exuberant music of the Salt City Brass Quartet.

When the foursome plays its polkas, the lunchtime crowd at Pete's responds by enthusiastically cutting the rug.

"They don't have a dance floor there, but people dance on the carpet," said bandleader and accordionist Jasiu Klocek (pronounced YA-shoe CLOSE-sek), of Memphis, northwest of Syracuse.

"We started playing regularly on Wednesdays in the buffet room and then late last winter we moved to the barroom -- Ring-Eyed Pete's -- which has the video gaming machines. We have a good following, dancers who come to hear us every week. They even came on the Fourth of July which fell on a Wednesday this year."

'The La De Da'

The quartet features Klocek on accordion and vocals, Frank Salvaggio on trumpet and vocals, Carl Borek on clarinet and tenor saxophone and Dick Milewski on drums.

The foursome is a smaller combo than Klocek's regular Salt City Brass, a band which has been playing dances and festival in Central New York for more than three decades.

Since November 2006 the quartet has been performing on senior citizens' day, every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Vernon Downs harness racetrack.

The band's repertoire is primarily comprised of polkas, waltzes and obereks.

In Polish, oberek means "to hop and turn," just as its dancers do. It is one of the national dances of Poland, and extremely popular with Polish-American Polka bands such as the Salt City Brass.

"The obereks, tunes like 'The La De Da,' are played in 3/8 time," the bandleader explained. "They're faster than a waltz but slower than a polka."

Polkas are two-beat tunes played in 2/4 time.

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