By Conrad Dudderar
After a COVID-19 break in 2020, Yukon’s Czech heritage celebration will be back this fall.
The 55th Annual Oklahoma Czech Festival will be staged Saturday, Oct. 2 in downtown Yukon. Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. members met recently and unanimously voted to present this year’s festivities.
“We will have the festival, just like always,” said festival coordinator Marjorie Jezek, president of Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. “Everything’s a-go.”
Festivities will feature a craft show, food booths, carnival, live Czech music and dancing, and crowning of new Czech royalty.
“The parade is still up in the air,” Jezek shared. “We’re going to wait and see if other festivals are going to have parades throughout the state, because that’s where all the people get really close – standing there for so long.”
Yukon’s Czech Day was scrapped last year due to the coronavirus outbreak. It marked the first time since the mid-1960s there wasn’t an official festival presented by Oklahoma Czechs, Inc.
In recent decades, Yukon’s “Czech Day” has attracted crowds estimated at 50,000 people.
The festival, which started in October 1966 as a celebration of Yukon’s 75th birthday, has traditionally been presented on the first Saturday in October.
October 2 is the date in 2021.
The Oklahoma Czechs’ festival coordinator is already busy calling on volunteers to help plan and present the event. It takes dozens of members working together, like a finely oiled machine, to make it all happen.
A GRAND RETURN?
Yukon has officially been proclaimed as the “Czech Capital of Oklahoma” and this festival is the city’s largest.
The 55th festival this October may not be as grand as years past, but Oklahoma Czechs are staying upbeat.
“I enjoyed my year off – but I missed it too,” Jezek said. “We had a 100% vote for it. We had a lot of people at the meeting Monday night. Nobody was against it and everybody talked favorably.”
Among the first Oklahoma Czechs’ volunteers to start preparing will be bakers of a certain popular Czech pasty.
“I don’t think we’ll have 2,500 dozen kolaches this year,” Jezek surprised. “We’re going to ‘feel it out’ and see how the group is this year.
“It might not be as big. People might still not want to get out. We’ll still have kolaches, just not that many.”
Kolache baking always starts several months in advance at the festival’s “hub,” the Czech Building at Fifth and Cedar.
When the Oklahoma Czech Festival was canceled last year, Jezek provided the reasoning behind the decision.
“There’s no sense in getting people infected at all,” she said in spring 2020. “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 had cases declined in the summer as temperatures rise, the Oklahoma Czechs’ president believed this virus would “be back” in the fall when it cooled down.
Jezek noted many Czech Festival volunteers are older and were at higher risk of getting the deadly virus.
Jezek believed not having the 2020 festival would “be the best thing all-around.”
“It might make the festival even bigger next year because people will miss it,” she said.
Oklahoma Czechs will know for sure Oct. 2.