CLEVELAND -- Cleveland's top polka ambassador has been honored by his family's native land.

Tony Petkovsek, whose daily polka radio programs began in 1961, and who originated the annual Thanksgiving Polka Party, received the Order of Service from the president of the Republic ofSlovenia.

Dr. Danilo Turk conferred the award upon Petkovsek for "his important contribution to the preservation of the Slovenian community in Cleveland." The ceremony was held in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

Petkovsek, who comes from a Slovenian family which moved to United States in about 1890, is "one of the focal points of Slovenian identity," according to a statement released by the Office of the President about the Order of Service award.

President Turk told those attending the medal presentation that polka music "is the most optimistic music there is."

In addition, Petkovsek was singled out during the ceremony for his efforts for the recognition of Slovenian during its independence efforts more than 20 years ago.

Arriving back in Cleveland this week, Petkovsek told WKYC he was grateful to all those who supported his radio programs over the decades.

Related Link: 50 years of polka music still going strong

"I have had so many supporters and volunteers who have followed all of this for over 50 years and made all this possible," he said, "not to mention the thousands who traveled with me to Slovenia through Kollander Travel all those years."