Czech and Kolache Festival

Czech and Kolache Festival

Oct 05, 2016

Czech Choraliers on Threshing Floor.

The Northeastern Wisconsin Czech and Kolache Festival is the largest festival of its kind in the area. The festival takes place every year on the first full weekend of August at Heritage Agricultural Farm and Pavilion, five miles South of Kewaunee. The festival featured entertainment, food, dancing, singing, displays, baking demonstrations, and vendors that celebrate Czech heritage and culture.

Baking kolaches with different fillings.

There was a huge turnout of people for this festival with locals, along with visitors from Arizona, Texas, Florida, Colorado, and Nebraska. Sue Sevcik, attendee of the festival, said “It’s always fun. The food is great. The kolache are delicious!”

The highlight of the Czech and Kolache Festival was the kolache. They are sold and there are demonstrations of how to make them. Pilsen No. 391 (Luxemburg, WI) member Julie Thoreson said, “Making kolache is a long process with each batch taking four to five hours. When I make them, I feel a connection to my ancestors and my heritage. I felt fulfilled to volunteer to make kolache for the festival.” There were two shifts of fifteen volunteer kolache makers for the two days of the event from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and 2 a.m. to 11 a.m. Approximately 12,000 kolache were made and sold!

Moravian dancers demonstrating folk dance.

Newtonburg Brass Band play instruments
used by their ancestors.

Czech music was heard throughout the festival, with present-day bands and also the old-time brass bands, consisting of Orv Konop’s OK Band, The Northernaires, the Muzikanti Pojdke Hrat (Musicians Come and Play), The Old Time Brass Band, and the re-created Newtonburg Brass Band (playing instruments that were used by their ancestors in playing Czech music that was popular over 110 years ago). The bands, performers, and vendors were organized by festival chairperson Orville Konop, a member of Verni Bratri No. 142 (Two Rivers, WI). Visitors had the opportunity of kicking up their heels to the tunes of the many waltzes and polkas played each day, or just indulging in a glass of authentic Czech beer. Czech food was available, such as metanky, jitrnice served on rye bread, Czech booyah, or poppyseed torte. Hamburgers, brats, and other refreshments were also available in the Beer Garden.

In addition to the music of the Czech bands, there was entertainment by the Czech Choraliers, dressed in their kroj, singing Czech/English songs, and the United Moravian Dancers, demonstrating the ethnic customs of folk dancing, singing, history telling, and crafting. There was also information, presentations, and demonstrations by the Wisconsin Czechs, Inc. These performances took place in the threshing barn or the pavilion.

Vendors sold items such as Czech jewelry, Czech cookbooks, CDs, DVDs, and t-shirts in the stable. There were also Christmas ornaments that were made in the Czech Republic sold in the board room of the pavilion. There was an informative demonstration by festival chairperson JoAnn Vogel, manager of the kolache making, on how to make the kolache, along with the fillings.

Historic buildings of a Czech farmstead, built in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, were open to the public for viewing. There was an 1876 furnished farm home. In the Blacksmith Shop were demonstrations of blacksmithing, as it was done many years ago. The Town Hall building even had displays of town records from the past. The Rising Above exhibit from the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library was on display in the small school house of the farm.

On Sunday morning, there was a heritage polka mass with Reverend Bill O’Brien officiating, music from the OK Band, and Gail Johanek as Cantor. It was followed by a Czech dinner, consisting of sauerkraut and dumplings, pork roast, vegetables, rye bread, coleslaw, and a kolache. Old-time music and dancing followed.

A special traveling exhibit was on display during the two-day festival that depicted the hardships and the joy found among those who came to this country seeking a new life entitled Leaving Czechoslovakia.

Czech beers, jewelry, and other items were for sale. Judy Kraynik, Correspondent for No. 391, stated, “I was extremely proud in recent years to demonstrate the decorating of Czech Easter eggs, a custom that I learned from my mother. I look forward to doing it in the future again.”

The event spurs interest from members of Western lodges No. 20, 108, 142, and 391. There are many volunteer opportunities that combine community service with cultural heritage. Kraynik commented, "It's a good feeling to know that we have the opportunity to get involved in, and enjoy, a celebration of our Czech heritage with others in our community.”

Meal server and No. 391 member Mary Jo Shefchik added, “It was a very rewarding feeling when people came from different states and would say something in Czech to me and receive a Czech reply.”

Julie Thoreson, kolache maker and member of the Wisconsin Czechs, Inc., summed it up by saying, “I think it’s a great celebration of our culture.”

Profits from the festival were donated to Agricultural Heritage & Resources, Inc., the site that hosts the event, to maintain buildings and invest in future plans.

by Cindy Motsinger, Communications Coordinator

Category: Czech Connection

Cindy Motsinger

Communications Coordinator

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