Post Eagle Newspaper


Dec 8, 2023

45°F, few clouds
New Jersey

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Gruber Family Band In Fontana
Memorial Day Weekend

The bar room draws a crowd between sets.

The Gruber Family Band (GBF) motored 500 miles from their homes in Northern California to perform at the Slovene Hall in Fontana on the weekend of May 24th. The Saturday attendance was energetic, but disappointingly light. On Sunday the place was jam-packed and the crowd tore the roof off. The event drew a dozen newbies to the Slovene Hall. One young lady had learned how to polka from watching a youtube instruction video and was anxious to give it a go with a real band and some real polka-ites.

GBF was fantastic. The hall was in great shape thanks to the hard work of the Woods family, the Rotes, and many others. The Woods family prepared stuffed cabbage rolls (sarma) and Slovenian smoked sausage (klobase) for the event. And John Wood made sure that the bar was well stocked with Fireball, which my wife, Gail, ordered to lubricate the ladies.

GBF plays a European mix – Austrian, German, Slovenian, Polish, and more – punctuated by American rock-n-roll tunes. Everyone was wowed. Martin Kramar, the young and energetic saxophonist/vocalist, had the girls screaming when he did his Elvis Presley and Tom Jones numbers. The audience gathered in front of the stage, punching the air with “so good, so good” in concert with Martin as he sung Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Michael Kramar amazed everyone with his musicality and stunned the crowd when he played his gartenschlauch (garden hose and funnel). After a tribute to the servicemen for Memorial Day, Michael played a very moving version of “Amazing Grace.”

gruber-slovene_072forwebThe Fontana Slovene Hall is an old, raised wood structure with a dance hall and adjoining barroom. In between dance sets, musicians gathered in the barroom and jammed. The button boxers (Frank Rote, Bob Page, Joe Mlakar, Frank Butsch, and Bill Swetkar) anchored the jam sessions with John Sinsel on piano accordion. After the dance the jammers continued. Finally, Eric Wood had to declare the event over and send them home.

In photo on right: Gail Haderle lubricates Martin Kramar & Peter Gruber with Fireballs.