Azman Quality Meats Earns Sausage Titles at Polka Hall of Fame Festival

Azman Quality Meats of Euclid, Ohio, took both the People’s Choice and the juried Best of Fest awards at the 13th annual Slovenian Sausage Festival hosted by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at SNPJ Farm in Kirtland, Ohio. Ray Zalokar, Polka Hall of Fame Board member; WINT-FM radio host Tony Petkovsek; Marie Azman; Bill Azman; Mark Habat, Vice President, Polka Hall of Fame; Joe Valencic, President, Polka Hall of Fame.

Bill Azman’s customers know his Slovenian sausages are out of this world. After all, they’re the only Slovenian sausages to have traveled into space. Folks attending the 13th Slovenian Sausage Festival in Kirtland, Ohio, agreed and Azman Quality Meats took titles as the People’s Choice and the Best of Fest judges’ award for top klobasa. More than 1,200 visitors attended the music event hosted by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at SNPJ Farm in Kirtland. They sampled the products of several vendors, as did a festival jury. Raddell’s Sausage Shop, located in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood, was voted runner-up for both categories.

As winner of the event, Bill Azman’s winning product will be the official sausage sold at the 53th Thanksgiving Polka Party weekend, presented by the Polka Hall of Fame, at the Marriott Ballroom in downtown Cleveland, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, November 24, 25 and 26, 2016.

“The secret is in the meat,” said Bill Azman, proprietor of the sausage shop in Euclid, Ohio. “It has to be top quality and with the right balance of salt, pepper, garlic and smokng.” Azman’s sausages accompanied Euclid-born astronaut Sunita Williams on two NASA space station missions.

Ten polka music groups volunteered to perform for the Polka Hall of Fame fund-raiser. Dancers polished the dance floor from noon to nine in the evening. Many visitors brought their own accordions for pop-up jam sessions. About sixty musicians performed, including Walter Ostanek, Canada’s Polka King, and accordionist Frank Stanger, who leads the reigning Cleveland-Style Polka Band of the Year.

“Good food and good music make everybody happy,” said Mary Lou Downs of Chatham, Ontario. “I love coming here with my friends every year. It’s so much fun.”

The first recipes for Slovenian sausage (kranjska klobasa, in Slovenian) were brought to America in the late 1800s by immigrants from present-day Slovenia. In Europe, the sausage is registered as a protected national product, unique to Slovenia. Sausage Festival vendors also offered bratwurst, rice and blood sausages, as well as stuffed cabbage, barley soup, potica nut roll and other nationality favorites. As chairman of the event Mark Habat searches for the right blend of vendors and music-makers.

“Bands and vendors love this event because it makes them new fans,” said Habat, Vice President of the Polka Hall of Fame. “People discover a new band or sausage shop they might not have tried on their own.”

The Sausage Festival jury was made up of Kirsten Holzheimer Gail, mayor of Euclid; Andrej Rode, Consul General of Slovenia; Plain Dealer food writer Debbi Snook; Jen Picciano of WOIO-TV; Tom Schiltz, Cleveland Arts Prize trustee; attorneys Scott and Ron Zele; and butchers Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend of Saucisson Cleveland. 

The National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame, located in Euclid's historic original City Hall building. The museum traces the story of the city's home-grown dance music from its roots in the Slovenian neighborhoods to nationwide renown in the 1940s and 1950s. The Polka Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 605 East 222nd Street in Euclid, Ohio. For more information, check the website at or call (216) 621-FAME. ###

Joe Valencic

Joe Valencic is a North Collinwood resident and President of the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum.

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Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 7:55 PM, 10.03.2016