After Nearly 80 Years, Maryland Polka Hall Prepares For Last Dance (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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After Nearly 80 Years, Maryland Polka Hall Prepares For Last Dance

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
Our next story is about a particular historic restaurant, one that's been serving up bratwurst and sauerbraten, not to mention pints and pitchers of ice cold beer, for nearly 80 years. Blob's Park features a 968 seat eatery, a rollicking beer garden, and a 2,000 square foot dance floor. It's drawn a loyal following of folks who show up every week to nosh, drink and strut their stuff. But, as Tara Boyle tells us, this chapter of Maryland history will soon come to a close.

MS. TARA BOYLE

00:00:34
There are surely lots of people who come to Blob's Park for the food, but the real draw, the thing that makes this place one of a kind, is the polka music.

MS. TARA BOYLE

00:00:46
It's Sunday afternoon at Blob's, and the band, Joy of Maryland, is onstage. The dance floor is packed with a swirling mass of people young and old. Some are doing a sort of shuffling step. Some are bouncing and bounding across the room. Others are clearly winging it.

MR. MAX EGGERL

00:01:02
I just last night had someone who travels the circles, the dancing circles, and they said as far as they knew, this is the biggest dance floor outside of hotel ballrooms.

BOYLE

00:01:10
This is Max Eggerl, the current owner of Blob's Park, and the grand nephew of Max Blob, the German immigrant who founded this place.

EGGERL

00:01:17
My uncle Max had a clubhouse, basically, during prohibition, and when prohibition ended, he got a beer and wine license and opened the clubhouse to the public. Got an accordion player, charged a dime for people to come in. Now it's 10 dollars. Things have changed a little bit.

BOYLE

00:01:37
And the biggest change is still to come. The Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore owns the land on which Blob's sits. And last month, Max got the news. The Archdiocese have decided to develop the property.

EGGERL

00:01:48
On the first of December, they sent a messenger out from the law office with a short notice that I had 120 days to vacate the place. They were taking it over. That means Blob's will close for good on March 30th.

MS. PEGGY RICE

00:02:01
I'm having a hard time not crying about it all.

BOYLE

00:02:03
Peggy Rice and her husband, Dave, have been coming to Blob's Park for 25 years.

RICE

00:02:08
My very favorite memory is the fact that my son-in-law, the first time he told my daughter he loved her, was while they were dancing here at Blob's.

BOYLE

00:02:20
Many a romance has bloomed on the dance floor at Blob's Park. And many unsure dancers have taken their tentative first steps here, learning not just polka, but the waltz, rumba, cha-cha, tango, and other partner dances. 17-year-old Carmella Barbo of Annapolis, Maryland has been dancing here for seven years.

MS. CARMELLO BARBO

00:02:38
I kind of am like a group leader, almost. Like, I help put all the performances together.

BOYLE

00:02:43
Carmella is a member of dance group called the Polka Kids, which started at Blob's Park 30 years ago. Tonight is the group's very last performance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1

00:02:52
So, here we go. The Polka Kids dancing (unintelligible)

BOYLE

00:03:00
A dozen kids take to the dance floor in handmade costumes. White shirts and pants and embroidered red vests for the boys. Lacy white dresses and similar red vests for the girls. They do traditional polka routines, a country western sort of polka, and a waltz before asking all the former polka kids in the audience to join them for a dance.

MR. BUTCH KOTOWSKI

00:03:19
Well, I was kind of lost for words. I was struggling in between songs when the kids were dancing. I'm looking at Mary for help.

BOYLE

00:03:27
This is Butch Kotowski. He and his wife, Mary, have been teaching the polka kids how to dance since 1984.

KOTOWSKI

00:03:33
And I'm saying, help me get through this thing, cause I'm having a tough time, and she could hear the voice quiver. And there was so much to say and there was so many memories.

BOYLE

00:03:44
That sentiment is echoed over and over again as patrons hug old friends on the dance floor and pour over photo albums from decades past. George Ward of Ellicott City, Maryland has been coming to Blob's since 1958.

MR. GEORGE WARD

00:03:57
There's a family kind of feeling to it. It's hard to express, unless you've been a part of it for a long time, but not many places like it around here.

BOYLE

00:04:08
It's unlikely there will many places like Blob's Park built in the future. Owner Max Eggerl says it' costly for venues to offer live music and dancing. And the demand for polka, in particular, isn't as high as it once was.

EGGERL

00:04:21
You know, people are not as social as they used to be. This next generation is growing up on the internet, and they're limited social skills. You know, they're more familiar with talking to a computer than they are with people. And this place is built around people socializing with people.

BOYLE

00:04:35
Eggerl says he'd like to open a new German restaurant once Blob's closes, but the focus will be on food, not music.

EGGERL

00:04:42
It'd be a whole lot easier for me to manage that, you know? I'm not a spring chicken either. I'll be 69 years old on my next birthday, so most people retire about then. I'm looking at opening a new career.

BOYLE

00:04:54
But before he gets too far in planning that whole new career, Max has something else up his sleeve. A way to make his goodbye to Blob's as much a beginning as it is an ending.

EGGERL

00:05:03
We just this weekend made some really special plans for the last day. I'm going to get married on the last day we're open.

BOYLE

00:05:10
You're kidding.

EGGERL

00:05:10
I'm serious. Yeah.

BOYLE

00:05:12
He says he and his fiancée, Sandra, will say their vows and host a private party for friends. Then they'll throw open the doors to the public, so that all the people who love Blob's can take one last twirl across the dance floor and remember the good times they've had here. I'm Tara Boyle.

SHEIR

00:05:39
You can pay a virtual visit to Blob's Park on our website. We have videos of the scene on the dance floor and of Blob's cooks grilling up lots and lots of German sausages. Just head to metroconnection.org.
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