By Conrad Dudderar
Fourteen contestants are seeking 2021-22 Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty.
Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. will present the Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty pageant on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 26 at Yukon Czech Hall, 205 N Czech Hall Road. The 55th Annual Oklahoma Czech Festival is set Saturday, Oct. 2 in Yukon.
This year’s Oklahoma Czech-Slovak pageant “will not be open to the public” due to COVID-19 health precautions, pageant director Debbie Kessler said.
Only the contestants’ family members and pageant participants will be allowed inside Yukon Czech Hall.
“Our plans are to have a ‘private’ pageant this year,” Kessler explained. “We are planning to have a livestream video of the pageant for the safety of some who aren’t getting out of their homes, and to encourage people to stay home.”
Safety measures will be followed since the pageant is an indoor event at Yukon Czech Hall, Oklahoma Czechs’ royalty coordinator emphasized.
“With COVID ‘in the mix’, we have people who could become sick and people who could be quarantined,” Kessler said. “We have about 15 school districts represented, between our contestants, pageant workers, judges, and emcee.
“I have to have measures in place, making sure I have ‘stand-by’ judges and extra ‘stand-by’ help for that day.”
There is one queen-elect, along with three junior queen, seven princess, and three prince contestants vying for 2021-22 Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty.
“It’s great to have that many young people who want to be involved in learning about and celebrating their heritage,” Kessler said. “We always welcome them.”
Each royalty candidate is judged on a private interview with judges, on-stage interview and kroj (costume) modeling.
Junior queen and queen contestants read essays about what their Czech-Slovak heritage means to them as part of the on-stage interview. Queen contestants also are judged on a talent performance.
To be eligible to compete for Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty, contestants must be an Oklahoma resident of Czech/Slovak descent or legally adopted by parents of Czech/Slovak descent.
Prince and princess contestants must be between age 5-10 years, junior queen candidates ages 11-16 and queen contenders ages 17-25.
THIS YEAR’S CANDIDATES
The 2021-22 Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty contestants who will compete at the Sept. 26th pageant are:
- Anna Sedivy-Thompson, 21, of Edmond, daughter of David and Brenda Thompson
- Aspen Hein, 15, of Yukon, daughter of Scott and Annetta Hein
- Hannah Thomason, 15, of Yukon, daughter of Melody Duty and Todd Thomason
- Eva Thompson, 12, of Edmond, daughter of David and Brenda Thompson
- Hailey Erwin, 8, of Del City, daughter of Howie and Amanda Erwin
- Emma Fraser, 6, of Edmond, daughter of Todd and Jamie Fraser
- Sophie Gering, 10, of Oklahoma City, daughter of Rob and Rachel Gering
- Josie Jedlicka, 8, of Oklahoma City, daughter of Jyle and Alison Jedlicka
- London Lippencott, 8, of Mustang, daughter of Sarah Lippencott and Coby Lippencott
- Kennedy Myrick, 8, of Yukon, daughter of Scott and Alissa Myrick
- Ainsley Wesselski, 10, of Mustang, daughter of Tiffany Moeder and Chad Wesselski
- Elliott Gering, 8, of Oklahoma City, son of Rob and Rachel Gering
- Jon Jantz, 6, of Oklahoma City, son of Christen Jedlicka and Joel Jantz
- Seth Pruett, 10, of Prague, son of James and Melinda Pruett
Winners will be announced about 4 p.m. on Yukon’s Oct. 2nd Czech Day “under the tent” outside the Oklahoma Czech Building at 5th and Cedar.
Kessler, the Czech royalty coordinator, encourages youth to participate in activities like the pageant, folk dancing and Czech School.
“It further enriches their lives and makes them understand a ‘bigger picture’ about their own personal history, the history of our state and the community of Yukon,” she said.
“When they’re in the pageant, I like them to ‘dig a little deeper’ and learn more about their family stories and their family histories.”
The Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty, crowned in October 2019, was the first group to serve a two-year reign because the official 2020 Oklahoma Czech Festival was canceled due to COVID-19.
Reigning royalty who will pass their crowns Oct. 2 are:
- Queen Emily Cole, 19, of Oklahoma City, daughter of Phil and Amy Cole.
- Junior Queen Kinzey Shirazi, 16, of Edmond, daughter of Jason and Lyndsey Shirazi.
- Prince Connor Imhoff, 9, of Sparks, son of Chad and Katrina Imhoff.
- Princess Lola Yanda, 12, of Yukon, daughter of Tony and Kimberly Yanda.
The current royalty has represented Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. at many special events, dances, parades, and festivals across the region.
Emily, Kinzey, Connor, and Lola volunteered to extend their reign after their first year was truncated during the pandemic.
This marks Kessler’s third year as Oklahoma Czech-Slovak pageant director and royalty coordinator. She credited her predecessor, longtime pageant director Janice VanBrunt, for helping prepare her for the duties.
Because of COVID restrictions, Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty won’t be able to make traditional Yukon school visits to share their Czech heritage and promote the festival.
“We meet with students in large groups,” Kessler said. “We dance with them, sing with them, and teach them the history of the Czech people coming to Oklahoma and helping start Yukon. And we give them an understanding of what this festival is all about and why we celebrate it.
“That’s always been a highlight. We’re really going to miss that this year.”