Celebrating Czech heritage

Czech Hall members host Oct. 3 event

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Dressed in their native Czech kroj (attire), Zoe Stanfeld, Emily Stanfeld and Sophie Gering perform a popular dance during last year’s Oklahoma Czech Festival in downtown Yukon. This year, members of the Oklahoma Czech Folk Dancers will be featured performers during a “Czech Festival Celebration at Yukon Czech Hall” set Saturday, Oct. 3. Elaine Benda is director of the Oklahoma Czech Dancers. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer

Yukon will have a Czech celebration on the first Saturday this October – but it will be different from what has been in past decades.

Suspending a tradition that started in 1966, Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. this spring canceled the annual Oklahoma Czech Festival in downtown Yukon due to COVID-19 concerns.

So, the 55th annual festival was moved to October 2021.

With Yukon-area residents still yearning for some Czech heritage fun, a “Czech Festival Celebration at Yukon Czech Hall” will be presented starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 inside Yukon Czech Hall, 201 N Czech Hall.

Lifelong Yukon Czech Hall member Elaine Benda, who is helping plan and present the Oct. 3rd event, said Yukon cannot have a year with no Czech festivities.

“We want to be thankful for our heritage, celebrate it together and share it with everyone,” Benda said.

There won’t be the familiar Main Street parade, crafts fair, royalty crowning, carnival, and dozens of food vendor booths – staples of the traditional downtown Yukon Czech festival.

But there will be Czech food, music, dancing, and more inside one of Yukon’s most historic venues.

“We wanted to do things but make it a more abbreviated version,” said Benda, who has been to every Czech festival in Yukon.

“There has been a festival every year since 1966 and we can keep the streak alive.”

Doors will open at 5 p.m. Oct. 3 at Yukon Czech Hall for this year’s scaled-down celebration of Czech heritage and culture.

Dinner will be served from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. ($10 each). The menu features sausage (klobasy) and sauerkraut, potato salad, beans, rye bread, and chocolate dessert.

Czech dance lessons will be offered for the first hour before The Bohemian Knights take the stage at 6 p.m. for a two-hour performance. Coloring contest winners will be announced at 7 p.m.

A performance by the Benda-directed Oklahoma Czech Folk Dancers will follow at 8 p.m., and then The Masopust Polka Band will perform from 8:30-10:30 p.m. There will be a door prize drawing at 9:30 p.m.

“We will have fresh kolaches,” Benda said, referring to that all-to-popular Czech pastry. “For the first time, we’ll be able to offer Czech beer. And we’ll be able to expand if the public likes it.”

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JUST ‘DIDN’T FEEL RIGHT’

The Oct. 3rd Czech heritage celebration is being presented by Yukon Czech Hall, a non-profit partnership of WFLA Lodge #67 and Sokol Lodge Karel Havlicek.

“The whole idea for the festival originated with Czech Hall members,” Benda said. “We’ve always been a part of it.

“To us, we didn’t feel right the festival shouldn’t be marked.”

Admission to the Czech Hall festivities is $10 per person; children age 10 years and under can attend free.

Yukon Czech Hall, formed in 1899, has hosted dances since 1920. Czech Hall – just south of Interstate 40 on N Czech Hall Road – is a national historic site.

“We’re hoping the community will come out and support us,” said Benda, president of the WFLA lodge. “Since Yukon was formed, everyone’s known that Czech Hall is always open for people to come and be part of the Czech heritage.

“If you’ve never come before, please give it a try! If you’ve been before, come again to renew the old friendships and see everyone. It’s like a giant reunion on every level.”

Yukon – officially the “Czech Capital of Oklahoma” – began celebrating a festival in October 1966 for the town’s 75th anniversary.

For more information on the Oct. 3rd festivities hosted by Yukon Czech Hall, contact Benda at ebenda@aol.com or (405) 721-4396.