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.
Czech heritage was celebrated with Czech food, beer, music, dance, costumes, decorations, and Czech vendors at the 2019 Czech and Kolache Festival on August 3-4. This annual event is sponsored by Agriculture Heritage Resources, Inc. in Kewaunee, WI and held at their facility on Wisconsin Highway 42. It is the largest Czech festival in northeast Wisconsin.
Over 7,000 kolache were baked by volunteers led by JoAnn Vogel, the Kolache Queen. They were sold in roughly two and a half hours to the customers who had waited in line to buy the delicious raised dough pastries. A Czech kroj fashion show, sponsored by the Wisconsin Czechs, which featured museum-quality Czech kroj worn by models from 3 to 80-years-old, entertained the audience. Additional entertainment was provided by the Czech Choraliers and the recently re-formed Pilsen Brass Band. Czech vendors sold Czech Christmas ornaments, memorabilia, and hand-made items on both days.
On Sunday, a Czech heritage mass was held, followed by a dinner of pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings. Jitrnice on rye bread was sold in the outdoor tent along with brats and hamburgers. The Hayes Boys Polka Band provided the music for dancing in the Pavillion and the Newtonburg Brass Band delighted the crowd with favorite Czech songs in the Threshing Barn.
This event was made possible through the volunteer efforts of hundreds of people who spent countless hours planning and working at the event. Three members of No. 391 (Luxemburg, WI) were among those volunteers.
The 2019 Czech Fest was held at the Bohemian Brick Hall (north of Myrtle, MN, rural Glenville, in Hayward Township) from noon to midnight on September 7. The annual Fall Czech Festival is put on by No. 44 (Hayward, MN).
Proceeds from this year’s Czech Fest went toward the restoration and care of the historic 110-year-old Brick Hall (which is on the National Register of Historic Places), and a small percentage will be donated to a community organization. This past year saw repairs to roofs and siding of out-buildings, brick tuck pointing, re-painting and repair of the Zare Zapadu sign on the front of the hall, and the installation of two Czech coat-of-arms and Czech dancer silhouettes, as well as the addition of a security light and pole in the parking area.
Many member volunteers wore their lime green Western Fraternal Life t-shirts, and were not only workers, but were available to answer questions and tell the history of No. 44 and the Brick Hall.
YELL! members helped with the bake sale, took turns helping with Kids Corner, and served pizza at night. Last year, the afternoon activities for kids were so popular that this year’s Kids Corner included a big bounce house, a toddler bounce house, bean bag toss, cowboy golf, washer toss, tic tac toe, bubbles, a coloring contest, toddler basketball, and fishing for prizes in a fish pond and duck pond. Children age 12 and under attended free with ticketed adults, and all kids activities were no charge.
There was music and dancing on a wooden floor under the big white tent. Malek’s Fishermen Band provided old time/modern music from 1 to 5 p.m., much appreciated especially by seniors; and Radio Active, a country/rock group played from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m., which drew our youth and a younger crowd. This was the first time there were two different bands on one day.
No. 44's 50 and 75-year members were invited, and honored during the afternoon pin presentation.
No. 44 provided picnic tables, but advised all bring their own chair to sit near the dance floor. Handicap parking was available, with transportation by Gator right to the food and dance area. Czech kolache, rohlicky, Bohemian caraway rye bread, and poppyseed cake were featured at the bake sale, along with traditional American treats and coffee. We had food, pop, water, special Czech and other beer and drinks available for sale. There was a silent auction, featuring Czech items from the Krikava collection, and door prize drawings for attendees. There was a drawing to name the Czech dancer silhouettes for a year—they are Pavel and Petra until next Czech Fest.
In spite of predicted rain and cool temperatures, we felt the day turned out successful.
More than 1,000 people gathered in Bannister, MI on August 4 to enjoy the 43rd Annual Harvest Festival. A Czech dinner was served to almost 900 guests and workers at the Bannister ZCBJ Hall.
Following dinner, Program Chairman Tom Bradley welcomed everyone as children and adults dressed in colorful Czech, Slovak, and Moravian costumes marched onto a 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 lodge President Bob Ladiski. A prayer for a successful harvest was offered by Fr. Bobert Basik, Pastor of St. Isidore’s and Holy Family Catholic Parishes in Laingsburg and Ovid.
The Bannister ZCBJ Czechoslovakian Folk Dancers (two years to senior citizen) performed several traditional folk dances. Several old time favorite songs were played by guest musicians John Mitosinka, John Hucko, Millie Okopal, Tom Koman, John Huzevka, Bonnie Weber, Michael Masten, and Alex Taphouse.
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. We thank Kevin and his wife Tracy for providing and working the sound system every year. Dancers presented a gift to Diane Bradley, thanking her for her time and patience in teaching the group.
Following the program, door prizes were drawn. Five bikes were donated by the Home Office and No. 225. Cash prizes from No. 225 were won by six people. A Czech doll, donated by sales representative Ed Fornusek and made by Margaret Horak, was won by Kim Studt, and a wooden cane made by Jerry Horak was won by Steve Sopocy.
Following the program, children enjoyed free games and prizes run by the YELL! group, while adults danced to the music of the Millie Okopal Band.
No. 389 (Western, NE) is proud to announce that three YELL! members are Czech royalty for 2020-2021: South Central Czech Queen Jordyn Stearns, South Central Czech Princess Kelsey Zoubek, and South Central Czech Princess Monica Zoubek. Kelsey and Monica Zoubek are 100% Czech twins.
The South Central Nebraska Czech Festival was held in Hastings, NE in June. No. 389's YELL! group enjoyed volunteering at the festival this year and are looking forward to volunteering next year. The YELL! group had a table set up representing the lodge with goodie bags and Czech sheets. The group loved visiting with several people and learning knowledge of their Czech heritage. They enjoyed listening and dancing to Polka music, the bake sale, vendors with several Czech items, and the Czech demonstrations. The group loved the authentic Czech meal that included roast pork, polish sausage, goulash, or a duck dinner with all the trimmings of dumplings, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, dill or brown gravy, vegetable, kolache, and strudels.
The Czech Chapter and lodge are very special to the YELL! group as both are a safe place to be with caring people that love and promote their Czech heritage.
The YELL! group also enjoys volunteering at the York October Czechfest. This is a one-day event celebration at the York Holthus Convention Center in York, NE hosted by the Nebraska Czechs of York. The YELL! group volunteered during the lunch meal serving drinks, carrying meals, and clearing tables. For the first time, the YELL! group taught two dances this year during kids activities, which they got to perform on the dance floor at Czechfest. They danced to the Chicken Dance and Flying Dutchman polkas.
This was so much fun for the group and youth that participated. The YELL! group will look forward to doing this again next year. They love volunteering at these Czech festivals because they get to promote Czech heritage while enjoying activities and tasty food.
The Phillips Czechoslovakian Community Festival was held June 15-16 in Phillips, WI. At the high school, volunteers baked kolacky, rye bread, hoskas, dinner rolls, and coffee cakes to sell at the bake sale and to use for the Sunday pork, kraut, and dumpling meal. There was a baking contest and kolacky eating contest.
Vendors set up in the school gymnasium. There were children's activities, such as decorating vests for themselves, making refrigerator magnets, coloring activities, face painting, and other projects. There was a display of antique tractors and machinery on the outdoor lawn. Demonstrations included making feather brushes, decorating eggs, and making straw decorations. Music and entertainment was available all day in the auditorium. People danced on Saturday evening.
In the community, the Catholic Church had a Polka mass on Saturday evening and the Protestant Church had a Polka service on Sunday. A state queen pageant and crowning completed the festival on Sunday.
Members of No. 236 (Phillips, WI) serve on the festival committee and also volunteer to help make the weekend a success. The festival occurs every third weekend in June.
Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.