A sweet task: Bakers finish preparing OK Czech Fest favorite

Some 24,000 sweet kolaches readied for Oct. 2nd Yukon Czech Day

Volunteers Milo and Lucy Shedeck add fruit fillings to the puffy dough, creating a sweet Czech pastry that is among festival favorites. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

The task for baking 24,000 kolaches began in early July and has finished in preparation for the grand return of Yukon’s Czech Day.

Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. will present the 55th Oklahoma Czech Festival on Saturday, Oct. 2 in Yukon. The Czech heritage celebration returns this year after being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Thousands of festivalgoers will come to devour that sweet Czech pastry, the kolache (also spelled kolace). The popular pastry traditionally holds a portion of fruit surrounded by puffy dough.

“You better get here early October 2nd before they’re all gone,” Oklahoma Czechs’ President Marjorie Jezek advised.

Kolache is sold individually and by the dozen inside the Czech Building at Fifth and Cedar. Oklahoma Czechs’ members also sell kolaches at a booth on the north side of Main Street.

It takes the efforts of dozens of volunteer bakers to prepare for Czech Day. There are two baking groups, headed by Jezek and Janice VanBrunt, who have been slaving for weeks inside the Czech Building kitchen.

“We started baking right after the Fourth of July,” said Jezek, who has been Oklahoma Czechs’ president for 15 years. “We’re going to have 2,000 dozen this year.”

After coming out of the ovens, the copious quantity of tasty kolaches is packaged up and placed inside the Czech Building freezers to be ready for festival day.

Oklahoma Czechs’ baker Ray Dillberg mixes dough inside the Oklahoma Czech Building. Volunteers have been baking kolaches and klobasy sandwich buns that will be sold at Yukon’s Czech Day. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

Almost everyone seems to have their favorite flavor.

“We’ll have apple, apricot, cherry, cream cheese, lemon, poppy seed, prune, and strawberry,” Jezek reported.

Oklahoma Czechs’ volunteer Jaime Olvera’s favorite filling is pineapple, which didn’t make the cut this time.

Jaime makes kolache baking a family occasion, joined by his mother Gloria, brother Gary and daughter Ariel. They like to experiment in the kitchen by using other ingredients.

How about a peanut butter and jelly kolache?

The Olvera family has been baking for about five years. This year, Jaime also serves as parade chairman (see related story).

The name kolache originates from the Czech (Bohemian) – and originally Old Slavonic – word “kolo” meaning “circle, wheel.”

Another mouth-watering favorite will be sold at the Czech Building during the Oct. 2nd Czech Fest in Yukon.

Warm klobasy sandwiches (offered with or without sauerkraut) will help satisfy festival attendees’ appetites. They are best accompanied by a cold glass of pivo (Czech beer), experts say.

Other highlights of the Oklahoma Czech Festival will be a 10 a.m. Main Street parade, live Czech music and dancing, craft show, and 4:30 p.m. crowning of new Oklahoma Czech/Slovak royalty.

Oklahoma Czechs’ President Marjorie Jezek places packages of kolaches, by the half-dozen, inside the large (and very cold) freezers at the Czech Building, Fifth and Cedar. Some 2,000 dozen of the treat-filled Czech pastry will be sold at the Oklahoma Czech Festival on Saturday, Oct. 2 in downtown Yukon. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)