By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Chmielewski celebrates 90th at Polkafest


Trisha Fields

The Chmielewski Funtime Band performs at the 39th International Polka Festival at Grand Casino, Hinckley.

Florian Chmielewski celebrated his 90th birthday at the 39th International Polka Festival at Grand Casino, Hinckley, on the weekend of May 19-21.

Florian was born February 10, 1927, near Sturgeon Lake and has lived there all of his life. Florian and his wife, Pat, had four children: Florian Jr., Jeffrey, Mark and Patty.

Pat died in 2003.

In an interview some years ago, Florian told this reporter he got his start performing when he was loaned an accordion for three weeks.

He said he learned several songs and booked a wedding dance in those three weeks. He played those few songs over and over at the wedding of neighbors Adam and Irene Klosowski on August 18, 1945, and he hasn't stopped playing for events in the 72 years since.

According to the website,, the Funtime Band played on weekly radio and TV shows for 35 years. Florian also established Funtime Tours and the Chmielewski International Polkafest.

In addition to his music, Florian also served as Pine County commissioner and then served in the Minnesota Senate from 1971 until 1997. He was the fifth president of the Senate during that time.

He won nine Minnie Grammies from the Minnesota Music Academy and was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame and the Ironworld Hall of Fame.

Florian also received an Honorary Doctorate of Law and Music Degree for his 26 years in the Senate and his dedication to polka music.

Because of those honors, Florian was inducted into the Pioneer Category of the International Polka Music Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Buffalo, New York. He also received the National Northeastern Accordion LifeTime Award in 2012 .

At the age of 90, Florian is still going strong and travels all over the area and out to Minot, North Dakota, with his band to play polkas for his fans.

Florian has passed the love of polka music to his children and grandchildren. He says the polka music legacy has carried on through six generations of the family, from his grandfather, father, brothers and on down to the youngest members.

A new book about Florian's life and legacy, "0 to 90," was available at this year's Polkafest.


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