By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Members of the 2019-20 Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty are making history.
“This is the first group in the history of the festival and the pageant that Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. has asked to serve for a second year,” said Debbie Kessler, Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty director. “We gave them that option in April when the Oklahoma Czech Festival was canceled.
“We told them they could continue their reign a second year or pass it on to the first runners-up. Each one said they wanted to continue.”
The 55th Annual Oklahoma Czech Festival – which had been set Saturday, Oct. 3 in downtown Yukon – was moved to 2021 because of COVID-19. The traditional festival activities, including the parade, carnival, craft show, and royalty crowning – won’t be happening this first Saturday in October.
The reigning Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty who will continue their reign into 2021 are:
• Queen Emily Cole of Oklahoma City, freshman at the University of Central Oklahoma City.
• Junior Queen Kinzey Shirazi of Edmond, sophomore at Deer Creek High School.
• Prince Connor Imhoff of Prague, third grade homeschooler.
• Princess Lola Mae Yanda of Yukon, fifth grader at St. John of Nepomuk Catholic School.
Since there will be no Czech royalty pageant this year, these current royalty members will serve a two-year term. This is a first for the Oklahoma Czechs, Inc., which was sponsored the annual Oklahoma Czech Festival since 1966.
“We were happy they chose to go on another year,” Kessler said. “We’ve already added 2021 to their sash.”
Queen Emily, Junior Queen Kinzey, Prince Connor, and Princess Lola “got a lot in” during the first six months of their reign – attending many parades and special events to promote their Czech-Slovak heritage and customs, Kessler said.
Their last official event as Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. royalty was Yukon’s annual Ground Hog Dinner at the First United Methodist Church.
“Anything I was throwing out there, they wanted to go to,” Kessler said. “Then the bottom dropped out of their year.”
Public gatherings were abruptly halted in mid-March as concerns spread about the novel coronavirus and Oklahoma venues and businesses shut down.
CZECH HALL CELEBRATION
Kessler, Oklahoma Czechs’ royalty director, said she hopes “by next spring” events that were canceled due to the shutdown “will be back open” so royalty members can have a “complete reign.”
Members of the Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty will get the chance for another taste of the limelight this weekend.
They will be announced at this Saturday’s “Czech Festival Celebration inside Yukon Czech Hall”, 205 N Czech Hall Road. Doors open at 5 p.m.
“We won’t have a coronation ball like we usually have, but this will kind of be their ‘part two’ coronation ball,” said Elaine Benda, a lifetime member of Yukon Czech Hall and president of WFLA Lodge #67.
“We’ll introduce them and they’re going to be there assisting and help judge our coloring contest.”
This Saturday’s abbreviated Czech heritage celebration at historic Czech Hall will feature Czech food (including fresh kolaches and klobasy), music, dancing, and door prizes. Admission is $10 per person.
“We really encourage the community to feel welcome to come to our events,” Benda said.
“It’s family friendly for literally all ages. Even if you don’t dance, it’s really good music and really nice fellowship. We’re all volunteers doing this out of our own pockets.”