In the United States, it is common to find local celebrations of Czech and Slovak heritage. Festivals provide a unique opportunity to wear traditional folk attire, dance to music, learn about traditional arts and crafts, eat great food, and mingle with others. This year was particularly special as we recognized the centennial anniversary of Czech independence. Members of Western get involved in these events every year! We detail highlights of the festivals in this article.
|Mollie B., Elise Belshan, and Maya Belshan.||Children's activities at the Hayward, MN Czech Fest.|
The Czech Fest in Hayward, MN on September 8-9 was a great success. The weather was perfect for both days. There was fun for all ages.
People danced to music provided by Mollie B and the Jim Busta Band on a wooden floor under a big tent. There were food items ranging from traditional kolache and rohlicky, to baked goods, hot dogs, brats, and chips. Children enjoyed the bouncy house, bean bag toss, ladder golf, toddler basketball, coloring contest, yard Yahtzee, face painting, and prizes.
A silent auction was held inside the Brick Hall. Many items were from the Czech Republic, donated by the Krikava family. People entered drawings for a jar of pennies and Czech glassware. There were Brick Hall mugs for sale, and brochures were handed out.
Special guest, Honorary Consulate of the Czech Republic in Minneapolis, Merit Lee Kucera, gave a brief talk about how the consulate helps Czech visitors and Czech immigrants to Minnesota.
On Sunday, there was a service led by Pastor Jim Krikava from Prague, Czech Republic. He did the service in both Czech and English. The service had music provided by Jim Krikava, Mollie B, and the Jim Busta Band. Afterward, there was a Czech meal with pork, dumplings, sauerkraut, rye bread, and kolache. Both were well attended.
Members of No. 44, Hayward, MN, were essential to making this festival happen. They volunteered with everything from planning to clean-up. They set up the tent and dance floor; helped with parking; made kolache, rohlicky, and other baked goods; made and served food; sold and took tickets; helped with silent auction and drawings; handed out brochures about Western and our lodge; helped with children's activities; and kept trash barrels empty. Members of No. 44 YELL! helped specifically with the bake sale, children's activities, and clean-up.
“Our lodge is proud to promote our Czech heritage. It is a joy to see children and adults in kroje, and everyone loves kolache! Our members agreed it was lots of work but a successful fundraiser,” said Bonnie Belshan.
September 7, 2019 is next year's Czech Fest. So far, there is music and dancing planned for the afternoon from the Malek Fishermen with a pop and rock band in the evening. All the favorites from this year will be back again next year. Everyone is welcome!
|Children and adults wear Czech, Slovak, and Moravian attire at the Dozinky Harvest Festival.||Musicians entertained at the Dozinky Harvest Festival in Bannister, MI.|
Bright sunshine and temperatures in the mid-nineties made for a very warm but beautiful Harvest Festival on August 5. Nearly 1,000 people attended the 42nd Annual Dozinky in Bannister, MI.
A dinner of breaded chicken, ham, potatoes and gravy, rice and giblets, dumplings and cabbage, kolache, and much more was served in the Bannister ZCBJ Hall. Following dinner, Program Chairman Tom Bradley welcomed everyone as the afternoon festivities began.
Children and adults, dressed in colorful Czech, Slovak, and Moravian traditional attire, marched onto an outdoor platform carrying flags, banners, baskets of flowers and decorated rakes, wreaths, and scythes. The Star Spangled Banner and the national anthems of the Czech Republic and Slovakia were led by No. 225 President Bob Ladiski. A prayer for a successful harvest was offered by Methodist minister, Zella Daniels. Some favorite songs were played by guest musicians Joe Oswalda, John Mitosinka, John Hucko, Millie Okopal, Tom Koman, Stan Saylor, and Alex Taphouse.
All 76 members of the Bannister ZCBJ Czechoslovakian Folk Dancers, ranging in age from two years to senior citizen, performed several traditional folk dances. David Martinka played the Slovak wooden courting flute, and donated profits from the sale of his CD’s to the charitable work of No. 225. Sisters Samantha and Allison Radman charmed the audience with their beautiful singing of songs in the Croatian language.
On behalf of the Home Office, Director Mary Bradley presented a check to Kevin Somers from WOES Radio to support broadcasting of Czech and Slovak music on the high school station. We extend much thanks to Kevin for providing and working the sound system for the festival every year. Dancers presented a gift to Diane Bradley, thanking her for her time and patience in teaching the group.
Following the program, drawings were held for free door prizes of cash and bikes provided by No. 225 and Western Fraternal Life. There was also a drawing for Czech dolls made and donated by Margaret Horak and a Slovak doll donated by Stacy Radman.
Children enjoyed games run by the YELL! youth group and adults danced to the music of the Bill Nemanis Band.
No. 225 thanks all the members and friends who donated many, many hours to help make this day so successful. Save the date for next year's festival on
August 4, 2019.
|Julie Thoreson and Judy Kraynik
demonstrate Czech Easter eggs
at the Czech and Kolache Festival.
Czech kroje style show at Kewaunee Czech and
The Czech and Kolache Festival, the largest in northeastern Wisconsin, was held at the Agricultural Heritage Farm, Kewaunee, WI on August 4-5. There was a Czech kroje style show, Czech food, music, and exhibits.
No. 391, Luxemburg, WI, members Peter Janowski and Julie Thoreson helped bake the 7,000 kolache. Peter baked one night and Julie baked two nights. Julie Thoreson shared, “The kolache baking is one of the largest in our state. We have made as many as 12,000 in the past. We made fewer this year as our baking volunteers get older. In past years we worked in two shifts, Saturday and Sunday. Each shift had about 25 volunteers. The work is just too hard to continue to do this all by hand and so many hours of standing on your feet. The fillings are all handmade except for the cherry. We have poppy seed, prune, apricot, cream cheese, cottage cheese, raspberry, strawberry-rhubarb, and cherry.” People come from many states to buy the kolache, and about 4,000 are sold in a matter of a few short hours to benefit a fundraiser.
At the festival, visitors purchased jiternice on rye bread and Czech beers. Pork, sauerkraut, and dumpling dinners were purchased on Sunday after the Heritage Catholic Mass. There are Polka bands playing in the Pavillion and in the threshing barn both days. Czech vendors sold handmade glass Czech Christmas ornaments, books, decorations, jewelry, and souvenirs. This year, Czech folk dancers from Minnesota entertained both days. The Czech Choraliers performed on Saturday and Sunday at the festival. Judy Kraynik demonstrated waxing Easter eggs with bees wax at the festival in the threshing barn.
The kroje style show includes models young and old. The kroje belong mostly to Ann Cramer and Kathy Kochan, members of Wisconsin Czechs. Julie Thoreson and Ann Cramer helped the models dress.
There are always many volunteers who put the festival on. The event is co-chaired by JoAnn Vogel and Orv Konop (No. 142, Two Rivers, WI). Julie Thoreson commented, “This kind of event makes one appreciate the heritage and the special attributes of the culture. Each year the festival has something special to see and learn about our wonderful Czech heritage.”
Plan to attend the festival on August 3-4, 2019.
|No. 389 YELL! members carried banners in the parade
during Czech Days Festival in Wilber, NE.
Junior Czech Dancers danced during the Czech Days
Wilber, NE is known as the Czech capital of the U.S.A. Every year, they hold the annual Czech Days Festival. This year's festival was August 3 through 5. There are a lot of activities and entertainment to be enjoyed by all. Some favorites include, Czech Bingo, Czech sing-a-longs, parades, Czech dancers, Czech heritage demonstrations, duck and dumpling run, car shows, Bohemian tractor pull, kid's tractor pedal pull, Miss Czech-Slovak U.S. Pageant, mini lessons in Czech, costume exhibit, quilt show, vendors, kolache-eating contest, dance and talent contest, Wilber Czech Museum, and lots of Czech foods.
Members of No. 389, Western, NE, get involved in the festival. “Czech Days is important to the YELL! group and the lodge because we get to celebrate and promote our Czech heritage. We have many Czech activities and entertainment at this festival. There are many fun things to do and see in Wilber. The food is amazing and the Miss Czech-Slovak U.S. Pageant and parades are awesome,” said member Katie Zoubek.
On Friday night, the YELL! group passed out treats and carried a banner in the children's parade. This year, they received first place. No. 389's YELL! members are proud to have twenty participants who dance with Junior Czech Dancers, led by lodge member Sheryl Kastanek. Dancers range in ages four to twelve, and over 100 total participate during the Czech Days Festival. The dancers dance starting Thursday night at the Hotel Wilber, then Friday at the Outdoor Theater, followed Saturday and Sunday at the downtown bandstand and outdoor theater. The dancers dance four Czech songs at each place!
The Czech Festival for next year is August 2 - 4, 2019.
The 14th Annual October Czechfest was held in York, NE on October 21. It is a one-day celebration at the York Holthus Convention Center in York hosted by the Nebraska Czechs of York.
They have coffee and kolache in the morning and a delicious Czech dinner, including roast pork loin or Czech wieners with dumplings, sauerkraut, and all the trimmings. There are lots of vendors and Czech entertainment, including queens and talent show.
Everyone loves to dance to the Milligan Czech Brass Band. Band members come from a variety of Western lodges in the area. There are lots of Czech activities, including beginning accordion lessons, Czech language lessons, children's Czech activities, and a silent auction.
The Nebraska Czechs of York sponsor a queen to represent the chapter at the state pageant. They also award an annual scholarship to a high school senior.
No. 389's YELL! group volunteered during the lunch meal and then they get to enjoy all the Czech activities. “We like this Czech celebration because we get to promote our Czech heritage and enjoy good food and activities,” said member Katie Zoubek.
Woods family members who danced with
The family of Isiah Woods came to see him portray
Men and women who made their journey from the Czech Republic to South Dakota are remembered every year in Tabor, SD during the Tabor Czech Days at Czech Heritage Park. This year's event was held June 14 - 16.
The Czech Heritage Club portrays five or six immigrant pioneers with re-enacted stories. One pioneer, Alois Ruman Sr., is the grandfather of No. 71 (Utica, SD) member Shirley Woods. Her grandson, Isiah Woods, was able to do the portrayal. Many people came to see the stories of the pioneers. Shirley Woods added, “Picture all of the family members who wanted to see their relative honored for their hard work and determination to come to the United States.”
A yearly favorite of Tabor Czech Days are the Tabor Beseda Dancers, who performed two days of the celebration. There are nearly 200 dancers ranging from age five and up into the senior years. The Beseda is a dance that comes from the Czech heritage. Five youth members of No. 71 are part of the Tabor Beseda Dancers.
Guests also enjoy the authentic Czech meals, such as kolache and dumplings. To further celebrate the heritage, a Czech mass was held on Saturday.
“This has been an annual event for the past 70 years which continues on!” commented Shirley Woods. “I am so proud of our community and how they are trying to preserve our Czech heritage.”
Next year, Tabor Czech Days is June 13-16, 2019.
|Eden Tlapak-Simmons and Jayden Mason,
Oklahoma Czech and Slovak Jr. Queens.
|Junior Queen Jayden Mason, Princess Kennedy
Myrick, and Junior Queen Eden Tlapak-Simmons.
The 53rd annual Oklahoma Czech and Slovak Festival was held on October 6 in Yukon, OK. A parade started the festivities, followed by dancing, singing, and food assortment. Thousands typically show up for the festivities, and over 2,500 homemade kolache are sold before noon.
The Oklahoma Czech Dancers under the direction of Elaine Benda (President of No. 67, Yukon, OK), delighted the crowd while performing to live music from the Bohemian Knights and the Masopust Polka Band.
No. 67 sponsored Junior Queens Jayden Mason, Eden Tlapak-Simmons, and Princess Kennedy Myrick. They are proud to announce that Jayden Mason was decided to be Oklahoma Junior Queen for 2018-19.
A special thanks to Marjorie Jezek, President of Oklahoma Czechs Inc., Elaine Benda, and other volunteers for all the hard work they do making the Czech Fest a success.
Save the date for next year, October 5, 2019.
Western thanks members Bonnie Belshan (No. 44), Joanne Fornusek (No. 225), Julie Thoreson (No. 391), Judy Kraynik (No. 391), Katie Zoubek (No. 389), Shirley Woods (No. 71), and Valarie Tlapak-Simmons (No. 67) for providing information and photos that were included in this article.
Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.