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Spotlight: The Polka Dots at River City Days

Ray Sands and the Polka Dots will be among the bands playing for Red Wing River City Days Aug. 4-5. File photo

The Polka Dots started 68 years ago. But who's counting? Actually, plenty of area event organizers count on the Kenyon-based band to put oom-pa-pa into local festivals.

Red Wing River City Days is no exception.

The Polka Dots will help kick off the three-day festival's musical line. On Friday, Aug. 4, the Polka Dots will play 1-4 p.m. in Bay Point Park. Like all the concerts that day, people can listen free of charge.

Friday's lineup also includes Red Dirt Road Band at 4 p.m., the Sheldon Brass Band at 6:30 p.m., and Fabulous Armadillos at 8 p.m.

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The ensemble started out as a concert band led by Art Fitch when the members played a series of concerts to raise money for a new hospital in Zumbrota. After the concerts ended, the band members decided to continue playing as a dance band, and chose the name Polka Dots.

During the 1950s and '60s, they played about five nights a week. The Polka Dots recorded their first album in 1952; it sold over 10,000 copies.

International trips are among highlights of the band's long tenure. In 1978 the Polka Dots were invited to play at the International Polka Fest in Kitzbuhel, Austria, and in 1982 the band toured in Scandinavia. Each time they were accompanied by large groups of friends and fans — 150 to Austria and 75 to Scandinavia.