by Katie Fennelly | photo by Shannon Claire
Lights. Camera. Polka.
Union Pacific Railroad is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the Great Big Rollin’ Railroad video contest. Entrants are asked to create a modern-day version of the classic catchy commercial from the 1970s. The winner of the contest will receive $15,000.
Lincoln’s own Bolzen Beer Band has stepped up to the plate.
With the help of Ryan Olsen, owner of Pow! Productions, the polka band is shooting a 60-second entry that highlights celebrations throughout the railroad’s 150-year history and, of course, trains.
“We’re taking the best parts of major time periods and then amping them up with the band playing at each celebration,” Olsen says. “It’s a reminder that there are plenty of good times in history.”
The band is focusing on when Union Pacific Railroad first started in the 1860s, the Roaring ‘20s, the end of the Great Depression and the end of World War II, Olsen said. Last week, Olsen and the band shot a few scenes in Omaha. The band will film in Lincoln two more days before the July 1 deadline — this Saturday as well as June 16 — and are looking for extras. Details can be found on a Facebook event the band created.
Contest participants are allowed to incorporate their own style, as long as they keep the lyrics and melody intact. For Bolzen Beer Band, adding their distinctive punk polka style was a no-brainer.
“We just covered the song the way the Bolzen Beer Band would do it — taking an old style and making it new and exciting again,” says Brian Brazier, the band’s tuba player. “We want to make it young, make it hip for young people while playing off of nostalgia.”
Brazier said their polka, with the help of Olsen’s production quality, will make their video stand out.
“I never thought polka would catch on,” Olsen says. “But they have done a damn good job of re-energizing the sound in a way that people like. They are an energetic, highly eclectic group of people that can keep people entertained until the wee hours of the morning — with polka.”
Katie Fennelly is a Hear Nebraska intern. Her first encounter with polka was John Candy moonlighting as Gus Polinski, the Polka King of the Midwest, in Home Alone. He and the Kenosha Kickers had a few hits a few years ago: “Polka Polka Polka,” “Twin Lakes Polka,” “Domavougi Polka” (aka Kiss Me Polka), “Polka Twist.” Reach her at email@example.com.