A free dance is planned at the Hotel Wilber tonight to kick off the commuity’s 54th annual weekend-long Wilber Czech Festival.
This year’s theme is “A Czech-American Adventure,” and Sheryl Kastanek, Secretary of the Nebraska Czechs of Wilber, says the festival involves the young and old alike.
“We have kids that dance for us who are three years old and we have a 105-year-old lady who helps out at the musuem,” Kastanek says. “We’ve got over a century of people to help make Wilber better.”
Julia Ourecky is this year’s Wilber Czech Queen and the Millard North senior-to-be has spent weeks spreading the word about the celebration.
“I was crowned in March and since then I’ve been traveling across both Nebraska and the Midwest to promote the Wilber Czech Festival,” Ourecky says. “We go to lots of parades and we talk a lot to the people and we hand out flyers, just trying to get everyone to come to Wilber.”
Wilber Mayor Roger Chrans says one hallmark of the Czech celebration is that it appeals to many generations.
“It’s becoming more of a family event,” Mayor Chrans says. “Families are having gatherings of moms, dads, grandmas, grampas and cousins to add to our celebration of our Czech heritage in our Czech town.”
Another highlight is the food, which is being prepared in dozens of residents’ kitchens, and will include many hundreds of traditional kolaches.
Friday’s activities include a children’s parade at 7 p-m and a performance by the Wilber Alumni Dancers. Thousands of spectators are expected for the main parades which will be held at 2 PM, both Saturday and Sunday.
The festival in the Saline County community also hosts the annual Miss Czech-Slovak U.S. Pageant, with competition beginning Saturday night and the coronation on Sunday evening.
The festival also features the Wilber-Clatonia Alumni Band, numerous polka bands at T.J. Sokol Hall and at the beer garden next to the Hotel Wilber. Czech history, art, demonstrations and a Bohemian tractor pull are also on the schedule.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice