A beautiful (Czech) day in Yukon

Crowds swell as great weather boosts 56th annual festival

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Oklahoma Czech folk dancers, from left, Francina Barney, Hailey Erwin and Layla Major perform wearing their kroj (native dress) “under the big tent” outside the Czech Building, 5th and Cedar. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

Great weather last Saturday in Yukon provided an ideal setting for the 56th Annual Oklahoma Czech Festival.

Tens of thousands of people came to Yukon for the day-long celebration of Czech traditions and customs.

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“Welcome to the amazing, some-kind-of-wonderful City of Yukon, the ‘Czech Capital of Oklahoma’,” Mayor Shelli Selby told the crowd. “We are so thankful that you’re here with us today.

“Enjoy this day as we celebrate our great Czech history.”

Presented by Oklahoma Czechs, Inc., this year’s festivities featured the return of the carnival and midway, along with a traditional downtown parade, live music and dancing, royalty crowning, craft fair, food booths, and more.

Czech volunteers sold about 30,000 kolache (the famous Czech pastry) and 1,800 pounds of klobasy on the festival grounds.

After the parade, the crowd gathered at noon “under the big tent” outside the Czech Building at 5th Cedar. There, everyone sang the U.S., Czech and Slovak anthems – capping it off with the Oklahoma state song.

State Rep. Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon) speaks to festivalgoers about Yukon’s rich Czech heritage after a welcome from Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby (right). At left is State Rep. Jay Steagall (R-Yukon), who acknowledged military veterans in the audience. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

Two state legislators who represent Yukon greeted festivalgoers.

“We have people here from all across the great State of Oklahoma and nationally – from South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Texas,” said State Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon. “This is something that we are so proud of, because our Czech heritage is a part of who we are in this community.

“Thank you for coming on such a beautiful day to celebrate with us!”

Rep. Baker reminded the crowd that Yukon hosts Czech Day on the first Saturday every October. The tradition started in 1966 when Yukon celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Also addressing the audience was District 43 State Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, who thanked Mayor Selby for “ordering up this awesome weather.”

“Isn’t this a great day to be here?” Rep. Steagall asked, to rousing cheers.

Throughout the afternoon, the Oklahoma Czech Folk Dancers performed to the delight of the audience.

The program was led by Director Elaine Benda, whose parents help start the festival in the mid-1960s.

“Thank you for coming … you’re welcome any time in our Czech community,” Benda said.

Oklahoma Czechs Inc. President Marjorie Jezek gave her assessment of last Saturday’s festival.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Jezek, in her 20th year as festival chair. “It was a wonderful show.

“We sold out of everything (by 2 p.m.) and all the vendors were happy. Nobody had any complaints.”

Czech dancers from several generations took to the dance floor during the 56th Annual Oklahoma Czech Festival in Yukon. Here, Lisa Gigstad Francel and Elise Holguin watch Mary and little Victoria Chute … who forgot to put on her shoes. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Mustang’s London Lippencott and Yukon’s Aspen Hein dance to the music. London would soon be crowned the new Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Princess. Aspen was last year’s junior queen. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Oklahoma Czechs’ grand parade marshal Natalie Jasinski, of Yukon, waves to the crowd lining Yukon’s Main Street for the morning parade. She is being driven by Janice Van Brunt, a longtime Czech dancer and kolache baking crew leader. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Members of Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. lead the singing of the U.S., Czech and Slovak national anthems to kick off the afternoon entertainment program directed by Elaine Benda. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
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PARADE, ROYALTY WINNERS

About 110 entries were featured in the morning Czech Day parade along Yukon’s Main Street. Winners were announced in three divisions.

Youth:

1st – YHS Student Council

2nd – Banner School

3rd – St John Nepomuk Catholic School

Commercial:

1st – R&B Trees

2nd – Jewelry Closet

3rd – Conquest Martial Arts

Adult:

1st – Central Oklahoma Ballet

2nd – Corgis of Yukon

3rd – Youth and Family Services

Parade judges were Gloria Olvera, Rob O’Hara and Susan O’Hara. Grand parade marshal was Natalie Jasinski.

The 2022-23 Oklahoma Czech Royalty: From left, Prince Rex Gering, Princess London Lippencott, Junior Queen Hannah Thompson, and Queen Jayden Mason. (Photo provided)

Crowned as the 2022-23 Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty were:

  • Queen Jayden Mason of Stillwater
  • Junior Queen Hannah Thomason of Yukon
  • Princess London Lippencott of Mustang
  • Prince Rex Gering of Oklahoma City

Thirteen contestants competed during the Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty Pageant on Sunday, Sept. 25 at Yukon Czech Hall, 205 N Czech Hall Road.

Pageant judges were Katrina Imhoff, Aimee Sikes and Heather Smith.

The grand march of the newly crowned Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty Court was last Saturday night, back at Yukon Czech Hall.

The Bohemian Knights Band and The Masopust Polka Band entertained with live music in the afternoon outside the Czech Building and in the evening inside historic Czech Hall.

Central Oklahoma Ballet performers wave to the audience from their Yukon Nutcracker float during the Oklahoma Czech Festival parade on Main Street. The local dance troupe won first place in the adult division. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Members of the Yukon High School Student Council have their trailer rocking – literally – as it is pulled by advisor Darryl Andrews’ truck in Saturday morning’s Yukon Czech Day parade. YHS StuCo earned first place in the youth division. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Members of the Bohemian Knights Band perform a polka favorite for the audience. Yukon’s Milo Shedeck (second from right) is the band’s leader; he has played in a polka band since age 14. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
District 41 State Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader (R-Piedmont) smiles at the big Yukon Czech Day crowd. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
The Oklahoma Czech Folk Dancers wave to festivalgoers in Yukon: From left, Amanda Hogan, Athena Francel, Emily Stanfill (holding Eilee Stanfill), Rachel Gering, and Lenita Krejci. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
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