Yukon’s Czech Fest 2020 canceled

55th annual celebration called off due to COVID-19 outbreak

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Oklahoma Czech folk dancers perform during the annual festival in October 2019. This will mark the first year since 1966 there will be no festival in Yukon. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar

Senior Staff Writer

For the first time since the mid-1960s, there will be no Czech Day in Yukon this year.

The 55th annual Oklahoma Czech Festival won’t happen in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Due to COVID-19, Oklahoma Czechs Inc. has regretfully canceled Yukon’s Oklahoma Czech Festival for October 2020,” according to the Czechs’ website. “But join us in 2021 for the 55th Oklahoma Czech Festival in Yukon. It had been scheduled for the first weekend in October.”

Kolache bakers Ray Dillberg (left) and John Dewar join Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. President Marjorie Jezek to make the ever-popular Czech pastries for last year’s festival. (Photo provided)

Marjorie Jezek, president of Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. and the festival’s coordinator, explained why the festival has been canceled.

“There’s no sense in getting people infected at all,” she said. “I’ve thought about it for about a month now. I keep watching the news. And it’s not getting any better. It’s only going to get worse. Until they find a cure or something for the virus, people are going to get it.”

Even if cases decline in the summer as temperatures rise, the Oklahoma Czechs’ president believes this virus “will be back” in the fall when it cools down.

Jezek noted many of Czech Festival volunteers are older and at higher risk of getting the fast-spreading and deadly virus.

“We don’t want 10 people in there baking and exposing each other,” she said. “And many people are without jobs right now so they’re not going to have money to spend.”

Yukon’s Lola Mae Yanda is crowned the Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Princess during last fall’s festival.

“If we were going to have the festival this year, we would have to start now – ordering (food and supplies) and starting to bake. We just can’t wait until the last minute.”

With this year’s cancellation, the Oklahoma Czech Festival won’t return to Yukon until Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Jezek believes not having the festival this fall will “be the best thing all-around.”

“It might make the festival even bigger next year because people will miss it,” she said.

This will be the first year there will be no Czech Day in Yukon since the heritage festival began in October 1966.

“The City of Yukon has canceled all of their festivals; it’s not just us,” Jezek noted. “And Prague has canceled the Kolache Festival that was supposed to be May 2.”

The Czech Festival typically attracts crowds estimated at 50,000 people each year to Yukon, the “Czech Capital of Oklahoma.” The festival, which began as a celebration of Yukon’s 75th birthday, has traditionally been presented on the first Saturday in October.