Polka bands, colorful costumes and kolaches are all part of this weekend’s 53rd annual National Czech Festival in Wilber, the official Czech Capital of the USA.
The celebration kicks off this afternoon with vendors, exhibits, an accordion jamboree and a kids’ parade at 7 PM.
Sheryl Kastanek of the Nebraska Czechs of Wilber urges people to help the community celebrate its Czech heritage. Kastanek says a family can spend very little money to enjoy a lot of events.
“We have close to a thousand volunteers for each festival,” Kastanek says. “Nobody is paid. We just do it to keep the town healthy.”
Wilber Czech Queen Marissa Florian, who’ll be a sophomore at Peru State College this year, helps to bake the fruity pastry desserts known as kolaches, a favorite of those who attend the festival each year.
“We make 14-hundred dozen and they are usually gone by Saturday, if not sooner,” Florian says.
At the Czech Cultural Center downtown, Kastanek says a local group of women will conduct a program to help people understand the Czech language.
“Chat with a Czech,” she says. “One of our locals has developed a class. They have homework and they go all summer long and learn about the Czech language.”
Parades will be held at 2 PM both Saturday and Sunday. The National Miss Czech-Slovak pageant is held at the outdoor theatre, Saturday and Sunday nights, with a Czech Historical Pageant also scheduled.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice