Kolace, kroje and convertibles: The Wilber Czech Festival 2007
Wilber, Nebraska, is a hub for Czech-Americans, and was appointed 'Czech capital of the USA' by congress back in 1987. Over the 3rd, 4th and 5th of August, it held its annual Czech Days festival, for the 46th time. The town of 1,700 welcomed some 50,000 visitors, and treated them to traditional Czech food, traditional Czech music, and some good old Americana as well. Following on from the celebrations, I called Russ Karpisek, the state senator for Wilber district. Going on the croaky-sound of Senator Karpisek's voice, I asked if there had been a lot of screaming and shouting at the Czech Days festival:
"Yes there was. A lot of fun, and whooping and hollering."
What sorts of things normally happen at this Czech Days festival?
"There are lots of polkas, and fun and dancing. Just everything that you could want to do, there's everything going on."
Mr. Karpisek went on to describe the sort of music that was played throughout the festival in a bit more depth:
But the Wilber Czech festival is not just about music. One of the highlights of the weekend is the annual Miss Czech Slovak USA pageant. Nora Jurkovicova was there to represent the Czech Embassy over the weekend. She describes the pageant over a rather shaky line:
Activities also included a 'duck and dumpling run', a 'tractor tug' and a 'farmyard olympics'. But despite such an action-packed programme, Russ Karpisek insists that it was really very easy to organize:
One of the guests of honour at this year's Wilber Czech festival was Nora Jurkovicova. She sat in the back of a vintage convertible and waved at the crowds of people along the route. She was glowing in her praise of Wilber:
"The people here are more aware of their roots, and more aware of the beauty of their traditions. So sometimes you have to travel very far from your homeland, to learn more about yourself, and your country, and your culture."