50th Oklahoma Czech Festival

50th Oklahoma Czech Festival

Jan 06, 2016

Submitted by Elaine Benda

ok-67-9.jpg

Members Eden Tlapak-Simmons and Caleb Tlapak-Simmons, with Monica Holmes, newly crowned 2015-16 OK Czech-Slovak Queen. Monica was sponsored by No. 67, and all three are members of the OK Czech Folk Dancers.

ok-67-5.jpg Authentic Czech music is played for the enjoyment of visitors.
czech-connection-ok-czech-fest-2.jpg Current executive officers: President Marjorie Jezek, Vice President Nelson Canham, Secretary Natalie Jasinski, and Treasurer Irene Littlejohn.
ok-67-6.jpg The parade goes through downtown Yukon.
ok-67-12.jpg Authentic Czech music is played for the enjoyment of visitors.
ok-67-3.jpg Oklahoma Czech Fest.
ok-67-7.jpg Czech dancers.
czech-connection-ok-czech-fest-1.jpg

Lauren Zurmehly, a member of No. 67 and the Oklahoma Czech Folk Dancers.

On October 3, 2015, the 50th OK Czech Festival was held in Yukon, OK. This festival, one of the largest and oldest in the state, has strong ties to Western. In 1966, several members of No. 67 decided the community should organize a Czech festival to celebrate the rich Czech heritage of Yukon and its surrounding areas. After the first festival was held, it was such a success that it became an annual event. A separate entity was incorporated in order to organize and operate the festival, OK Czechs, Inc. The vast majority of this group’s original membership were Western members, and even 50 years later, there continues to be a strong presence of Western Fraternal Life in OK Czechs, Inc.

If you attended the festival this year (or any year in the past), you saw many Western members working, and many more working behind the scenes. A No. 67 member was even featured in the banners that the city of Yukon placed up and down Route 66 for the entire month preceding the festival. Lauren Zurmehly, member of the OK Czech Folk Dancers, had almost 50 giant photos of herself (taken while she was performing at the 2014 festival) placed throughout Yukon! Her mother, Rannell Griffin Zurmehly (Lodge No. 67) was Czech Queen in 1973-74. As you can see, our OK Western members continue to be busy, not only in their own lodge activities, but also representing the volunteerism of Western through OK Czechs.

This year’s 50th festival was a great success. People attended not only from Yukon but the entire state of OK, as well as visitors from all over the country. The day began with a parade down Main Street in downtown Yukon. Main Street happens to be the historic Route 66.

As soon as the parade ends, activity moved to the Oklahoma Czech Building two blocks from Route 66, where there were hundreds of dozens of kolace, delicious “special recipe” klobasy, Czech crafts and souvenirs, and a Czech meal waiting for the thousands of visitors attending the event. A five-hour program provided music and dancing, all authentically Czech, for the enjoyment of all, free of charge. Polka bands, Czech folk dance groups, and even a Czech rapper entertained the crowd throughout the day. Dozens upon dozens of beautiful kroje (Czech national dress) were seen everywhere.

The afternoon concluded with the crowning of the 2015-16 OK Czech-Slovak Queen, Junior Queen, Princess, and Prince. The pageant was held the Sunday prior to festival day, and the winners were announced on festival day. The festivities then shifted to Yukon Czech Hall for a six-and-a-half hour dance with Polka bands playing for the listening and dancing pleasure of all. If you have not been to the OK Czech Festival, mark your calendar now, as the 2016 festival planning is already under way! It will be held October 1. If you need any information about it, just ask an OK Western member or Elaine Benda at (405) 721-4396.



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