Thousands celebrate Czech heritage, tradition in Yukon
By Alyssa Sperrazza
The 53rd annual Czech Festival powered through Saturday’s showers in Yukon as thousands of people showed up to celebrate their heritage and culture.
With a parade, arts and crafts booths, a carnival and plenty of Czech food and dancing, visitors got a glimpse into the Czech Capital of America and the celebration that lasted well into the night.
The festival was preceded by Yukon High School’s drama, “The Murder of Lidice,” which told the true story of a Czechoslovakian town, Lidice, during World War II. The perfectly-timed play was performed Thursday and Friday at the Yukon Fine Arts Center prior to the festivities Saturday.
Marjorie Jezek, the director of this year’s festivities, said despite the rain, people showed up and the show went on.
“Because of the weather condition, it’s still been really good,” Jezek said. “And the crafters, I had some pull out and some of the parade pulled out because of the weather, but the majority stayed. We had about 90 percent crafters and 99 percent parade. People, I’d say maybe 80 percent [of normal attendance]. I mean there was still a big bunch.”
The morning’ festivities opened with the parade and the afternoon shifted gears, with live music and Czech dancing at the Czech building prior to the royalty coronation.
Debbie Kessler, who worked with the Royalty court, said she was proud and pleased with this year’s contestants.
“When we see six girls duking it out for one crown and then one is crowned and all six of them grab each other and hug each other… that’s what it’s all about,” Kesler said. “They’ve made friends and they can celebrate with their friend. It’s a lot of work but it’s important.”
The 2018-2019 Czech Royalty Court includes Czech Queen Jerusha Brown, Czech Jr. Queen Jayden Mason, Czech Princess Molly Pruett and Czech Prince Garrett Vause. The new court will assume the previous court’s duties of attending parades, representing Yukon and Oklahoma Czech culture and serving the community.
“Last year’s group is going to be a hard act to follow because they on their own initiative, they wanted to do service projects,” Kessler said. “So I’m going to encourage this group to think of ways they can serve the community and the state… Also, one thing that this group did yesterday, we went to Yukon Public School elementary schools. We went to five [of eight] of them. Those kids probably taught over 1,000 kids yesterday about our culture… That’s one thing I believe we’re going to make a mandatory event every year.”
The coronation ceremony was full of hugs and laughter as contestants congratulated each other and watched the new court crowned.
Following the ceremony, people headed to Czech Hall for an evening full of dancing and celebration to conclude the 53rd annual Czech festival.