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Tony Petkovsek

“America’s Polka Ambassador”
August 21, 1941 – February 14, 2019

Tony Petkovsek, who began his career on Slovenian polka radio in1961, an unprecedented 57 years in broadcasting, passed away at the age of 77 this week.
For 50 years, the radio programs were broadcast live daily and on location from Kollander World Travel, formerly Tony’s Polka Village on East 185th St. in Cleveland Ohio. He later moved the broadcast to his condominium radio studio in Fairport Harbor and most recently was heard broadcasting from his home at St. Vitus Village in Cleveland.
Prior to 1981 he was on the FM stations of WXEN, WZAK, WBOE and Cleveland Public Radio WCPN.
His internationally recognized radio program featured Cleveland Style and Slovenian Folk music, interspersed with interviews of civic, travel and entertainment personalities. Tony produced the show with his own sponsors, and announced the program with close radio partners.
Over his career, he interviewed the many polka music leaders locally, nationally and internationally including Frank Yankovic, Lawrence Welk, Bobby Vinton plus renowned folk artists Lojze Slak and Slavko Avsenik of Slovenia. He taped conversations with two presidents of Slovenia and national news correspondants here in the United States.
He was a former partner and vice president at the long established Kollander World Travel Inc. (a division of Kompas Tours in Europe).
In 1967, Tony originated the concept of the “Polka Tour” and as a result, arranged and co-hosted thousands of travelers to see the world, accompanied by polka bands from across the country. The tours took talented musicians and bands on planes, cruise ships, motor coaches, trains throughout the world, and tours through all of Europe, South America, the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, and even Australia, all guided by “America’s Polka Ambassador”, Tony Petkovsek. He traveled to his beloved Slovenia over 50 times throughout his life.
Tony established a core volunteer booster group, his own “Cleveland Slovenian Radio Club” committee. Many community projects ensued over the years raising thousands of dollars through “Radiothons” for the Slovene Home for the Aged and for the then new independent country of Slovenia to be recognized by the US government in 1991.
In 1963, Thanksgiving became a polka holiday weekend for Clevelanders and travelers alike, commemorating Tony’s initial broadcast on Thanksgiving Day, 1961. His Radio Club sponsored these Thanksgiving Festival events, originally held at the Slovenian National Home on St. Clair Avenue, followed by St. Joseph High School on E. 185th Street, and for the last several decades, the event has continued in Tony’s tradition at the Marriott Hotel, downtown Cleveland, attracting thousands of fans from over 20 States, Canada, and Europe as the premiere Cleveland-Slovenian style event.
He has been an active founding member of the American Slovenian Polka Foundation which established the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame in Euclid. He is a Lifetime Achievement Award Winner and Chairman Emeritus of that organization.
In former years, Tony also helped organize some of Cleveland’s largest outdoor festivals on E. 185th Street, known as the “Old World Festival“ as the volunteer entertainment chairman, serving on the board of the Northeast Shores Development Corporation. As a former resident and businessman in the E. 185th Street, former Cleveland Mayors Voinovich and White appointed Tony to the Board of Zoning Appeals at Cleveland City Hall. He later served Governor Voinovich on the Ohio Arts Council and also emceed two gubernatorial inaugurations in Columbus for his longtime friend George Voinovich.
Throughout his career, he received over 100 awards and proclamations presented by international, national, state, county and city representatives and organizations for his contributions to the community. In 1967, he was named “Slovenian Man of the Year” by the federation of Slovenian Homes becoming the youngest person ever to receive this great honor. With the distinction of hosting America’s longest daily polka and nationality radio show, he was inducted into the prestigious National Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1991.
He considers the Slovenian polka community as his true “family” and is grateful for the support he has received.
His popular polka music and community service show, continues in his name and tradition on Saturdays from Noon till 3PM on WINT-1330AM and 101.5 FM and also simulcasts worldwide on the internet at, hosted by Joey Tomsick, Denny Bucar and Joe Valencic.

Relatives and friends requested to meet for Mass of Christian Burial Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 12 Noon at St. Vitus Catholic Church, 6019 Lausche Ave, Cleveland, OH 44103. Private burial will take place at a later date at Calvary Cemetery. Cremation by DeJohn Crematory. Family will receive friends to pay tribute to and celebrate the life of Tony at the SLOVENIAN NATIONAL HOME, 6417 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, OH 44103, FRIDAY 3-8 PM. ARRANGEMENTS BY THE ZEVNIK-COSIC FUNERAL HOME OF WILLOUGHBY HILLS.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in memory of Tony to the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame or St. Vitus Parish. Pastries will be received and appreciated for Tony’s visitation on Friday at the Slovenian National Home.

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Condolence Messages

  1. Barbara Korencic Meadows

    Saddened to hear of Tony’s passing. I have many good memories of him through the years. I especially enjoyed the trip I took to Slovenia with his tour groups and also the cruises I went on with him and Joey Tomsick. All he has done for the Slovenian Community will be remembered for many years to come.

  2. I miss you, my dear friend Tony. Thank you for all the love you gave to our music and our Slovenian Community.

  3. Olga Hribar-Lovric

    Tony,,,you definitely were a true legend…very many fond memories.The Polka community will never be the same without you.May your gentle soul RIP…

  4. Tony, you were a great man. I thank you for all your kind words and recommendations over the years and will always remember all the good times we had at Sterles over so many years. Rest In Peace my friend.

  5. Tony-Thank You for your Contribution to our Culture. Thank You for your Friendship to my Parents! ✨❤️

  6. Tony, you are already missed on this side of heaven. Enjoy your polka music in polka heaven. Thank you for sharing the happy music with us for all of those years. Nasvidenje!

  7. Joey and Patti Miskulin

    Friendship and love never die.

  8. May You Rest In Peace. You did a lot for Polka Music. Thank You.

  9. Rest in peace, Tony. So many great memories!

  10. We will never forget what did and meant for Slovenian & Cleveland-Style Polka music. Tony, you are one of my heroes and your kindness and friendship to me will never be forgotten. Farewell Tony and may you rest in peace.

  11. Frank and Marilyn Svet

    The Slovenian community will miss you Tony, but your memory will live on forever. God Bless you my friend!

  12. Tony rest in peace. The Dennis family…

  13. Thank you, Tony, for your “love” of Cleveland’s Slovenian Community & being Cleveland’s Slovenian / Polka Ambassador – You will be missed! May your Soul “Rest in Eternal Bliss”

  14. Rest in peace. I have enjoyed playing at the Thanksgiving polka shindig for many years. Thanks for making that wonderful festival happen.

  15. Tony…you will truly be missed. I’ll always remember how you drove from Cleveland to Rome, NY to take part in my band’s 20th anniversary dance back in 1998. Over the years, you booked my band many times and I’ll always cherish those memories. Thank you for your friendship! God Bless You!

  16. May you rest in peace Tony, I really enjoyed attending a number of your Thanksgiving polka weekends at the Cleveland Marriott over the years traveling from the central New York . May your Soul rest in peace!


    • Tony and my brother Ken (Zagar) were always “there” for each other. Tony was a compassionate friend to everyone he met. I appreciate his warm relationship with our entire family. His dedication to the preservation of the Slovenian culture is unmatched. Rest in peace Tony…

  18. Tony and Ann Klepec

    We are saddened to hear about the loss of our dear friend Tony Petkovsek!
    We enjoyed the many trips with him to Homeland Slovenia.
    “Ostal Bo Lep Spomin”

  19. I grew up listening to Tony’s weekly broadcasts, as a farm kid in Chardon, and as the son (Caroline) and grandson (Martin) of the founder’s of “Sorn’s Restaurant.” There was no greater promoter of the Cleveland-style Polka, and it’s Slovenian roots, than Tony.

  20. Dick Blaha,Milwaukees Polka Ambassador

    A Thank You to Tony for all the things he done for us here across the plains. He helped us from afar to cultivate our music no only from Milwaukee but from across Wisconsin. From the Milwaukee Polka Shows and The Wisconsin Polka Boosters …Rest In Peace You will be missed.

  21. Cafe Europa and Bistro

    Thenk you for your freindship!God Bless You.Tony rest in peace… John and Anna —- Cafe Europa and Bistro..

  22. My life in Euclid was so special listening to his radio show with my father Leopold and mother Terezija zupancic I thank him for the memories. Stan zupancic

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