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Photo of Deb Gau With the help of two young volunteers, polka musician Mike Schneider walked an audience of families from the Tracy area through the steps of the Chicken Dance during a concert on Wednesday at the Tracy Library. The first step: put your hands in the air and make “chicken beak” movements

TRACY – Mike Schneider had a lot of songs to share with the kids around him – mostly polkas. And while some of the songs may have been new to its audience, others were classics.

Schneider called two boys to the front of the group. “Have you ever done the chicken dance?” he asked them.

With the boys helping to demonstrate the dance steps, Schneider had the audience pounding, clapping and spinning as he played the melody on his accordion.

The show was part of a special summer program, “Small size Polkas”, at the Tracy Public Library on Wednesday. An audience of around 40 children and families came to the library for music, dancing, and even a magic trick or two.

Schneider, a resident of Clinton, Wisconsin, is a nationally recognized accordionist and polka musician. Since 2008, he has also offered polka music to a younger audience through the Pint Size Polka program. Schneider’s visit to Tracy was funded with help from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

“Originally, we were supposed to have this program last year”, said librarian Tracy Valerie Quist. But like many things in 2020, the concert ended up being suspended due to COVID-19.

Although the Tracy Library has been able to stay open since last summer, participation in community programs has taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, Quist said.

“We probably had about half of the attendance at summer readings last year” she said.

And while it was good that the library could still provide people with important community services and entertainment during the pandemic, Quist said they were limited in the types of programs and events they could organize. Now, with the restrictions on indoor gatherings lifted, many members of the community were returning and the library was able to host events like the polka concert.

“We are all very happy to see each other” Quist said. “It’s nice to see some of our families again.

The downstairs community hall where Schneider played for families was another part of the library that is finally starting to be used more and more. Quist said renovations to the library’s lower level were completed in fall 2019.

“We have to have a few programs and events here, then COVID has hit,” she said. She looks forward to the public making more use of the space now.

Quist said Tracy Library was able to resume hosting regular book club meetings and storytelling hours for children this summer. They are also partnering with the Tracy Area School District’s Accelerated Reading Program.

“It is going very well” Quist spoke about the response to community programs this year. “We have probably close to 80 children registered for summer reading.”

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