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Button-boxin' - Live polka band returns to the south end of the island every Tuesday

January 28, 2015
Melissa Schneider - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The sounds of Cleveland-style polka will swirl over the south end of the gulf this season, as Mary Lou Downs and Charlie Tomecek, along with their Florida Snowbird Polka Band, return from the brisk Canadian and northern American weather, and stop in at Junkanoo on the Beach, 3040 Estero Blvd. You can hear their music every Tuesday afternoon, from Feb. 3 to March 24, from 2 to 5 p.m.

"This will be our fifth year coming down to Fort Myers Beach and playing at The Junkanoo, and I'd say Fort Myers Beach has really taken to it," said Charlie Tomecek, band leader of the island group and longtime buttonboxer. "When we started, we had maybe 10 to 15 people, and every year, we seem to draw more and more from Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Cape Coral even Punta Gorda. We have about 1,000 flyers that are passed out around the town, and lots of people come to our shows now it's really caught on over the years, and we love the crowd."

Charlie, Mary Lou and their Florida Snowbird Polka Band (named so, as most of the musicians in the group travel down south to our warm beach in the winter) play mainly Cleveland-style polka waltzes and two-steps, which puts an emphasis on the accordions and buttonboxes.

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For the fifth year in a row, Charlie Tomecek and Mary Lou Downs returns to Junkanoo on the Beach, 3040 Estero Blvd., with their nine-piece Florida Snowbird Polka Band, performing Cleveland-style polka waltzes and two-steps every Tuesday afternoon, from 2 to 5 p.m. All are welcome to join in on the festivities and hitting the dance floor for some polka jam fun. Bulletin FILE PHOTO by Melissa Schneider

"Our basic sound you will hear is from the buttonboxes and accordions, filled in with other instruments it's something that everyone wants to see and hear ?and really gets people on the dance floor," Charlie explained.

When they're up north nine months of the year, Charlie, Mary Lou and their other band members are all in other musical ventures and venues. But when they come down south to Fort Myers Beach for the season, it's all about their Snowbird band.

"Our band, the Florida Snowbird Polka Band, is made up of American and Canadian players, all snowbirds, with our core band comprised of nine musicians. But, as we also invite other musicians to come up and join us, I've counted as many as maybe 15 to 20 people playing together at one time," Charlies said. "We'll have buttonboxes, a piano, accordions, banjos, a bass, guitar and drummer, not to mention whatever our invited guests are playing."

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Whether you're a local musician who'd like to possibly join the group on stage, or if you're more into sitting back and enjoying the show, hitting the dance floor from time to time, all are welcome to join in on the polka-making fun. There's no charge to enter the show, and Charlie encourages those who attend to sit back, enjoy the beautiful beach view and sip on a cocktail or two.

"The man we really deal with at Junkanoo is Neil, the general manager, and he's the guy who sort of gave us our start there, and he looks after us and his staff is really good," Charlie explained. "When we play, if you come to listen or dance with us, you get free parking at the restaurant, which you don't get at many places in season, and the view is beautiful, right on the beautiful beach. We are the only live polka music band playing on the beach in Florida and it's right in your backyard. Come out and have some fun with us."

For more information on the polka band jam sessions at Junkanoo through March, or to see other musical projects Charlie and Mary Lou are a part of, visit



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