The Saline County community of Wilber is hosting the 57th Annual National Wilber Czech Festival this weekend. Activities run Friday through Sunday.
Long-time volunteer Sheryl Kastanek says the town was named the official Czech Capital of Nebraska in 1963, while the national designation came later.
“We’re not self-proclaimed. We are the Czech Capital of the USA and that was in a joint resolution between the House and the Senate,” Kastanek says. “President Ronald Reagan signed that proclamation in 1987.”
This year’s theme is “The Centennial of the Founding of Czechoslovakia 1918-2018.”
Friday’s events include a Children’s Parade on Main Street at 7 PM and community awards to honor those who have contributed their time and support to the festival.
Allen Brozovsky, vice president of the Nebraska Czechs of Wilber, says other Nebraska communities celebrate their Czech heritage, and while Wilber has the national designation, the Czech communities support each other.
“A lot of them travel not only in Nebraska but all over the country also to the Czech celebrations,” Brozovsky says. “It’s just a gathering where everyone can be a neighbor and a friend and a Czech at the same time.”
The Wilber festival typically draws more than 30,000 visitors for the three days and Kastanek says attendance has hit 50,000 in the past.
Along with polka music, the Wilber-Clatonia Alumni Band will perform. There will also be Czech food, culture and dancing.
The celebration Saturday and Sunday will include parades at 1 PM and the Miss Czech-Slovak U.S. Pageant.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice