A Czech ‘holiday’ in Yukon

Reigning queen invites everyone to Oct. 1 festival as she reflects on busy year

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Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Queen Anna Sedivy-Thompson makes a presentation at the Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant competition this August in Wilbur, Neb. She was crowned first runner-up. The 56h Annual Oklahoma Czech Festival is Saturday, Oct. 1 in Yukon. (Photo by Julia Ourecky)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

As she prepares to conclude her reign, Anna Sedivy-Thompson has relished an enriching, activity-filled year as the Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Queen.

“Queen Anna” was crowned Oklahoma Czechs, Inc.’s 2021-22 queen in October 2021 during the Oklahoma Czech Festival in Yukon, the “Czech Capital of Oklahoma.”

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Anna and the rest of Oklahoma’s Royal Court will appear at this Sunday’s annual Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty Pageant inside historic Yukon Czech Hall.

“It’s an honor to be able to pass on the traditions to the young people and anyone who’s willing to learn about it – including those who aren’t Czech or Slovak,” she said.

Reigning royalty members will pass their crowns to the 2022-23 Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty at the 56th Annual Oklahoma Czech Festival next Saturday, Oct. 1 in Yukon. Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. presents the day-long festivities.

“I’ve been going to the festival since I was three years old,” Queen Anna said. “My mom has been going since she was five years old.

“This is something that’s been in my family forever and we absolutely love it. For me, the festival has always been like a holiday. There’s all this preparation and then this huge day when we all get to celebrate together and share our heritage with others.”

The reigning Czech Queen’s mother, Brenda (Sedivy) Thompson, is 100% Czech. Her father, David Thompson, comes from a British family so Anna was a competitive Irish dancer growing up.

“We always joke that he’s ‘Czech by marriage’,” she shared. “He’s grown to love it as much as we do.

“The Czechs are a real welcoming bunch, and we’ll take anyone who wants to learn more. My dad is a prime example of that.”

If it wasn’t for Anna’s grandparents, Victor and Evelyn (Sykora) Sedivy, she would not be queen today.

Victor Sedivy and his granddaughter would bake kolache together for the festival and he inspired her to seek Czech-Slovak royalty. She was crowned princess at age 8.

“I enjoyed it so much that I came back for more.”

Anna grew up going to Yukon Czech Hall for Saturday night dances, also playing violin with the Masopust Polka Band.

Along with earning her Oklahoma title, Queen Anna competed at the Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant this August in Wilbur, Neb. Tens of thousands of people attended.

There, Anna was crowned first runner-up and earned the Sokol Award, Kroj Family Story Award, Kroj Knowledge Award, Kroj Accuracy Award, and Talent Runner-Up. She was awarded $3,350, Czech crystal and Czech garnets along with her national crown.

As a member of the Miss Czech-Slovak US Royal Court, Anna will spend the year making appearances across the country – and possibly internationally.

Oklahoma’s Czech-Slovak queen welcomes everyone to the Oct. 1st Czech heritage celebration in Yukon.

“It’s going to be a very busy festival day this year,” she said. “On top of all the kolache and the dancing and seeing everyone in their beautiful kroje (traditional costume), I’m also excited to be going as royalty.”

Anna especially enjoys the Czech national folk dance.

“I love the Beseda,” she said. “It’s fun to dance; it’s fun to watch. It’s a huge statement of identity for Czech/American people, and something my family has a really close connection to.”

Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Queen Anna Sedivy-Thompson models her kroj during the EU Open House 2022 this May at the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Doug Sanford)
The Sedivy-Thompson family during the EU Open House 2022 this May at the Czech Assembly in Washington, D.C.: Front from left, sisters Eva and Anna Sedivy-Thompson; and back from left, grandmother Evelyn (Sykora) Sedivy, father David Thompson and mother Brenda (Sedivy) Thompson. (Photo by Doug Sanford)
Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Queen Anna Sedivy-Thompson learns traditional paper crafts from town elders during one of her trips to the Czech Republic. (Photo by Kemal Onur Ozman)

MORE THAN A CROWN

Being Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Queen means so much more to Anna than wearing a crown.

She has made several trips to the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C., participating in the Masaryk Diplomatic Program.

This 2-1/2-month-long program is designed for U.S. university students interested in Czech/American diplomatic relations.

The Heritage Hall graduate is an honors student at the University of Oklahoma, where she’s majoring in pre-med/computer science with minors in French and math.

Oklahoma’s Czech Queen wrote a 15-page paper advising Czech diplomats on ways to preserve Czech/American heritage in the U.S.

As part of the program, she went to the Czech Embassy to make a presentation on her research about kroje and demonstrate the beauty of the folk dresses.

“We presented 12 authentic kroje from all over the Czech Republic at the EU (European Union) Open House,” Anna said. “All the EU assemblies opened their doors for a few hours in May. There were 3,000 who came to this event, including diplomats from all over the world, the EU ambassador (Stavros Lambrinidis) and Czech ambassador (Hynek Kmonicek).”

Queen Anna went twice to Europe to visit the Czech Republic and Slovakia, spending about 1-1/2 months there during January, May and June.

“While I was over there, I worked with kroj-makers to make the traditional dresses that we wear on Czech Day,” she shared. “I went to museums and worked with ethnographers to learn more about the book traditions and the kroj.”

She’s an expert on the subject, having an extensive collection of more than 30 authentic kroj dresses from all over the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

“Some of them that I wear are from the 1890s; and some that I wear are brand new, made last month,” Anna shared. “Each one has its own history, a different story, a different meaning.

“They all look completely different, but each one is absolutely gorgeous.”

Queen Anna’s family was featured on Cesky Rozhlas (the Czech equivalent of National Public Radio) for their work preserving and sharing authentic Czech kroje in the U.S.

Meanwhile, she has been working with her cousin Petr Sovjak in the Czech Republic to restore a kroj that had been lost for hundreds of years.

They will completely revive the kroj from the town of Neubuz, where her ancestors came. She hopes her grandmother, Evelyn Sedivy, will be able to wear it in the U.S.

Another highlight was attending the Ride of the Kings, an annual Czech Christian folklore festival that attracts people from across the world to the small town of Vlčnov.

In addition, she represented Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. at the Taber Czech Days festival in South Dakota where she made a kroj-dressing presentation.

There Queen Anna saw how other groups besides Czechs are committed to heritage preservation.

“My mom’s side of the family all came from the Czech Republic,” she said. “These are the cultures and the traditions they brought with them. When they came to the U.S., their community was the Czech community.

“Maintaining our heritage means maintaining those connections to all of these wonderful people in the community.”

Czech Americans are admired for having a tenacious spirit, which she sees as “inseparable” from the cultural heritage.

Anna Sedivy-Thompson after being crowned first runner-up at the Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant in Wilbur, Neb. A Heritage Hall graduate, she’s an honors student at the University of Oklahoma. (Photo by Julia Ourecky)
Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Queen Anna Sedivy-Thompson (center) stands with the horse she helped decorate for the Ride of Kings Festival in Vlčnov, Czech Republic. On the left is her sister Eva. (Photo by Kemal Onur Ozman)
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CZECH FEST ‘TOP THREE’

Queen Anna has made several dozen appearances wearing a kroj dress over the past 12 months representing Oklahoma Czechs, Inc.

As the first Saturday of October nears, she shared her “top three” reasons to attend the Oklahoma Czech Festival in Yukon:

THE FOOD – The Czech Fest food is known across the state for being “absolutely amazing.” Her favorite kolach flavor is poppy seed (“it’s a classic”). Besides this authentic Czech pastry, the Czechs’ klobasy (sausage) sandwiches are also a favorite of many festivalgoers.

THE PARADE – It’s so fun to see “all the people from Yukon and across the Czech community” in Oklahoma. Featuring more than 100 entries, the parade starts at 10 a.m. along Main Street Yukon.

THE DANCING – “It’s so much fun; you literally get to see all ages,” said Queen Anna, who started dancing as a baby. Music and dancing are featured throughout the festival at the Oklahoma Czechs Building, 5th and Cedar.

“You can watch all generations of people, dressed in these gorgeous dresses, perform these really exciting folk dances,” she said. “It’s fun to participate in, and it’s fun to watch.

“There’s really something there for everyone – whether you don’t know anything about Czech culture or are an expert in Czech culture, or even if you just want to go for the carnival.”

There are other Czech traditions and customs not shown at Yukon’s annual festival – such as traditional beadwork and decorated Easter eggs.

“There’s so many different crafts and activities you can do outside of the Czech Festival year-round, for anyone who’s interested,” Queen Anna emphasized.

Oklahoma’s reigning Czech-Slovak queen at age four, dancing with her mother Brenda (Sedivy) Thompson during the annual Czech Festival in Yukon. (File photo)
Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Queen Anna Sedivy-Thompson (center) assisted by sister Eva (right) and kroj model Reese Henja at her kroj dressing presentation at the Taber (S.C.) Czech Days festival. (Photo by Brenda Sedivy Thompson)
All the kroj presentation participants from Oklahoma, Minnesota, Texas, Kansas, and Washington D.C, join Czech Ambassador to the U.S. Hynek Kmonicek and the EU Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis during the EU Open House 2022 at the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Doug Sanford)
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