By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
When the new Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty were crowned one year ago in Yukon, little did they know how epic their reign would become.
The 54th annual Oklahoma Czech Festival in October 2019 was highlighted by the coronation of Queen Emily Cole of Oklahoma City, Junior Queen Kinzey Shirazi of Edmond, Princess Lola Mae Yanda of Yukon, and Prince Connor Imhoff of Prague.
This quartet has earned new, highly coveted sashes to wear along with their crowns after agreeing to serve a second year as Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty. Their distinctive sashes now feature three years – 2019, 2020 and 2021.
This marks the first time in the history of Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. that royalty members will serve a two-year reign, necessitated when the 55th annual Oklahoma Czech Festival was postponed until October 2021 due to COVID-19.
There has never been a royalty group in the festival’s history that represented Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. for a second year.
“These are the first and hopefully the last,” said Debbie Kessler, Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty director.
When the 2019-20 Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty was crowned, no one could have foreseen the curveball 2020 would throw.
“After their coronation, these eager royals went straight to work covering at least 13 different events in the first four months of their reign,” Kessler said.
These events were local to both Yukon and the metro area – also including events across Oklahoma and even in other states.
Then the coronavirus “threw on the brakes,” Kessler described.
This spring, event venues, government buildings and businesses across Oklahoma shut down as part of a global pandemic.
With the risk of the virus returning this fall and many festival volunteers among the vulnerable population, Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. President Marjorie Jezek announced this year’s Oklahoma Czech Festival would be canceled.
Besides having no official festival on the first Saturday in October, the annual Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty Pageant (typically on the previous Sunday at Yukon Czech Hall) also was canceled in 2020.
Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty members were disappointed there would be no Oklahoma Czech Festival or pageant this year.
“I really hated to see their reign snuffed out by this pandemic,” Kessler shared.
“So, when the Oklahoma Czechs made the tough decision to cancel this year’s festival, we invited the royals to continue their reign through 2021.”
Queen Emily, Junior Queen Kinzey, Princess Lola, and Prince Connor each quickly accepted the invitation.
“We have recently added 2020-2021 to their sashes and they are ready to get back to work as soon as things open up,” Kessler said. “These sashes are as unique as the golden crowns and sashes worn by the 2015-2016 royalty group who served during the 50th anniversary of our festival.”
The Czech-Slovak royalty director shared Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. members’ pride in “these young cultural ambassadors” and they look forward to seeing them again represent the Czech-Slovak heritage.
2020 marks the first time since 1966 that Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. will not present an annual festival in downtown Yukon.
There will be a Czech heritage celebration starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 inside Yukon Czech Hall, 201 N Czech Hall.
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, prize drawings, and more inside the historic venue. Admission is $10 per person.