GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — In the age of social media and endless technological entertainment, it's easy for classic traditions to fall by the wayside for more modern ways of having fun.
The Boulder Community Media, Sageland Media and folklorists from Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming are trying to make sure that same fate doesn't befall Dutch Hop music by producing "Dutch Hop: The Documentary."
On a recent Sunday, a crew was in Evans to film the Greeley Dutch Hoppers.
A form of polka music big in the German-Russian community from the Volga Region of Russia, Dutch Hop is an instrumental form of music most often featuring an accordion, trombone, keyboard and hammered dulcimer.
Georgia Wier, a folklorist who used to be a part of the Greeley Museums, said this has been a project eight years in the making. After years of fundraising and planning, filming started last summer. The tri-state area was the settling point about 70 years ago. The German-Russians were apt to work endless hours on beet fields. Through the years, one thing kept them sane and promoted community togetherness: Dutch Hop music.
The goal of the documentary, which is directed by award-winner Chris Simon, is to immerse viewers in scenes of energetic dancing, lilting music and various traditional foods that go with the Dutch Hop tradition.
Simon said the film tells their story through interviews with musicians, dancers and local folklorists. A $40,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts has helped make the production possible, along with contributions by the dancers themselves.
Simon and her crew filmed the Greeley Dutch Hoppers.
Stan Schilling and Jim Trostel have run the group since November, and they said the music and dancing is an integral part to their heritage.
Trostel said people from Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland all have their forms of polka, but Dutch Hop is completely different from any of those. In fact, he said he hardly classifies it as polka music because it's so diverse.
Growing up in an age with no computers or cellphones to bury their faces in, they said dancing with their friends and family was their main source of entertainment.
But now that those distractions exist, the two are having difficulties getting younger generations to come out and embrace their history.
Trostel estimated the average age of the group is around 75. Schilling wasn't so sure about that.
"Yeah, right. We have people in there who are 93 and would dance both of us under the table," he said.
But with such a high average age and a lack of youth involvement in the traditions, there is a major cause for concern going forward.
"We realize we're not going to live forever," Trostel said, "Who's gonna take this after we're gone? We need people who are 50 and all the way down to babies to start coming to this, so they can grow up with it like we did."
They hope the documentary helps serve that purpose. The Greeley group was first approached about five years ago to gauge their interest in being filmed. They had no choice, really. There was no better way to show what they do and give an image of their culture than by filming it.
Anne Hatch, a folklorist for the Wyoming Arts Council and a producer of the documentary, said helping this project and immersing herself among the community has been the high point of her career.
"It's taking something that's so treasured from many, many generations in this particular community and coming up with the means to share it just with our own neighbors," she said.
Her role is more administrative and bureaucratic in nature. She's responsible for securing fundraising, working with their partner folklorists and keeping the whole project on its tracks. Traveling from Wyoming to parts of Colorado and Nebraska, she said she's noticed how tight-knit the German-Russian community is.
For her, that's the best part of this project.
"It's so gratifying to think, as we bring this to a successful conclusion, we've taken a snapshot of this community, music and dance and preserved and presented it in a way that anyone will be able to see it," she said.
And through the documentary, Trostel said, hopefully the community can be revitalized.
"We've got to get some people back to this, or we're going to lose it," he said.
Information from: The Tribune of Greeley, Co, http://greeleytribune.com