By Conrad Dudderar
A tradition that started in 1966 to celebrate Yukon’s 75th anniversary returns this weekend as tens of thousands of people celebrate this community’s rich Czech cultural heritage.
The 57th Annual Oklahoma Czech Festival will be staged this Saturday, Oct. 7 in Yukon – the official “Czech Capital of Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma Czechs, Inc. presents this festival on the first Saturday each October with the goal to preserve and share old Czech customs so dear to the people of Czech descent.
These customs – including recipes, kroje, songs, and dances – have been handed down from generation to generation.
“This year’s festival includes Czech music and dancing all day outside the Czech Building, and homemade kolache and klobasy sandwiches available inside,” said Oklahoma Czechs President Marjorie Jezek, in her 21st year as festival chair.
“We have 150 craft vendors, 30 food vendors and our annual parade.”
Jezek, who has been Oklahoma Czechs’ president for 18 years, thanked all volunteers – from those who baked kolache months in advance to members who will work this Saturday.
“We would not be able to have such a wonderful festival without all of you,” she said.
The Czech people will be distinguished on Czech Day by their unique and colorful kroje. The folk dress of each village in the Czech Republic varies.
Many people of Czech descent try to trace the village their ancestors are from and hope to copy some of the designs of their own kroj.
John Kouba, the first president of the Oklahoma Czechs Inc., was one of the founders of the Oklahoma Czech Festival in Yukon. Today, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren volunteer annually on Czech Day.
In a letter written to promote the first festival in 1966, Kouba described this inaugural Czech celebration as a means of reawakening people to their neglected heritage.
“The pride the Czechs have shared with others made this nation of ours so great – even hardships of the first Czech settlers in molding a new life on the frontier were never regretted. None of this diminished the faith and interest the Czech people had, and have in our old-world customs, music, culture, handicrafts, food, and colorful dress.”
A FULL DAY
A full slate of activities fills the 2023 Yukon Czech Day schedule.
The ever-popular parade along Main Street starts at 10 a.m. featuring more than 100 entries. Judges will select winners in three categories – youth, adult and commercial.
Oklahoma Czechs will perform the U.S., Czech and Slovak national anthems at noon outside the Czech Building, 5th and Cedar.
President Jezek and dignitaries will follow with remarks to the crowd.
Czech folk dancing and singing will highlight the afternoon program, with music provided by The Masopust Polka Band and The Bohemian Knights.
Food vendor booths will line 5th Street both north and south of Main (Route 66).
Meanwhile, civic and commercial vendor booths will be on S 4th Street near the carnival midway in the Old Mill Plaza parking lot.
The 2023-24 Oklahoma Czech royalty will be crowned during a 4 p.m. ceremony.
Thirteen contestants competed last Sunday, Oct. 1 in the annual Czech-Slovak Royalty Pageant at Yukon Czech Hall. The Oklahoma Czechs’ new queen, junior queen, prince, and princess will be announced on Czech Day.
Yukon Czech Hall, 205 N Czech Hall, will host the Oklahoma Czech-Slovak Royalty Coronation Ball from 5:30 p.m. to midnight this Saturday to conclude the 57th annual festival.