Bannister's Harvest Festival

Bannister's Harvest Festival

Oct 19, 2016

More than 1,000 people gathered in Bannister, MI for the 40th Annual Harvest Festival. Every year, the members of Michigan No. 225 help make this festival a success and add to its Czech flair.

A ceremonial procession celebrates Dožinky.

Members not only volunteer their time, but also recruit others in the community to gather around 100 volunteers. No. 225 Secretary and program chairman Tom Bradley commented, "We can always find a group of people who want to help. We ask people we know, and the involvement helps build membership for our lodge." Member Diane Bradley added, "We would not be able to have this event without the support of all the volunteers. We sincerely appreciate it."

Dancers wore traditional costumes as they performed.

The festival is the lodge's biggest yearly event. When reflecting on how the event has evolved over 40 years, Tom Bradley said it has become more organized and the ability to accommodate people has grown. "We started with a wooden dance floor, but then had tents, and added to the hall," he reflected. What hasn't changed is that it has remained an event were people come to celebrate and learn about Czech and Slovak heritage.

Prior to the event, the lodge worked hard to promote it. Joanne Fornusek made posters and wrote articles. She reached out to newspapers, radio, and television stations. This year, No. 225 was invited to Channel 12 of Flint to talk about the event on a morning show. Some of the youth were able to dress up and dance while District Director Mary Bradley discussed the event. The camera was able to switch between the discussion and the dancing to spark interest in the event for viewers.


Gary Andrews, Meggan Andrews, Kristof Leonard, Krista Fornusek, Mary Bradley, Isaak Bradley, and Rachel Fornusek on Channel 12.

The festival began with a dinner at the ZCBJ Hall, and a welcome from Tom Bradley. Lodge President Bob Ladiski lead the national anthems of the United States, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

The Bannister ZCBJ Czechoslovakian Folk Dancers performed several traditional folk dances. Member Diane Bradley had taught the group, and the dancers presented her with a gift for her involvement. "My husband Tom and I started the dance group in 1976 when the festival moved here. It has been wonderful. We have been able to teach children of children -- it is a nice thing that we are able to keep the pride alive from generation to generation."

The event is unique because it reflects the traditional Czech-Slovak harvest festival called Dožinky. Traditionally, farmers would gather in the fields and form a ceremonial procession to bring back the last batch of harvest from the fields. The batch would be turned into a wreath. In many regions, the wreath's grain is then used as the first batch of grain set aside for next year's sowing. Attendees to the festival really enjoyed the Dožinky ceremony.

Czech songs were also sung. Zdenka Leonard worked weekly with children and teens to teach them the songs she learned while growing up in Prague. The singing groups are divided into ages two to eight, and a pre-teen/teen group. Previous to Leonard, Pauline Sourek was able to teach the group before she passed. There have been four or five generations singing the same songs in the Bannister area.

Other activities included children playing games, people singing along with volunteer musicians, and adults dancing to Vesela Kapela. There was also a heritage mass and former director Larry Vilda sold hand-made goose feather basters.

Category: Czech Connection

Cindy Motsinger

Communications Coordinator

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