This year’s Moravian Day Festival to take place online 

Moravian Day Festival, photo: archive of United Moravian Societies

One of the most anticipated events of the Bohemian, Moravian and Slovak expat community in the United States is the annual Moravian Day Festival, which traditionally takes place in Chicago at the end of September. This year’s 81st edition scheduled for the upcoming weekend had to be cancelled to the public due to coronavirus, but people can still enjoy it online.

The very first Moravian Day Festival took place in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago in September 1939, only a few weeks after Hitler’s troops invaded Czechoslovakia, and it has taken place every year ever since without a break.

Roman Bobčík is the president of the non-profit organization United Moravian Societies, which has been in charge of the event from the very beginning:

Roman Bobčík,  photo: Klára Stejskalová

“It is a two-day event, it starts on Saturday afternoon with a homecoming dance and then it flips into the Sunday. On Sunday we start with a holy mass celebrated in the Czech language. Right after that the main program starts, which lasts from two to three hours.

“More than 200 people take to the stage in the course of that afternoon and they are all dressed in regional costumes from Moravia but also Bohemia and Slovakia.”

The colorful event, full of singing and folk-dancing, wouldn’t be complete without the regional costumes, most of which are authentic pieces from Moravia.

The costumes have been handed down from generation to generation and some of them are more than 100 years old.

Moravian Day Festival,  photo: archive of United Moravian Societies

Speaking to Radio Prague at the Moravian Day Festival last year, Roman Bobčík’s wife Yvette explained what it takes to prepare the costumes for stage:

“One slip takes an hour just to iron. And we will be dressing about 80 girls and each of them has two or three slips!”

“When you wash the blouses you have to keep them hung so they don’t wrinkle. They have to be starched all the way up into the pleats, otherwise they don’t stand properly.”

Yvette Bobcik,  photo: Klára Stejskalová

According to her husband, Roman Bobčík, the interest in regional costumes is still huge, even among younger generations.

One young enthusiast is the 20-year-old Elyssa Waloch, Miss South Dakota Czech-Slovak, whose ancestors come both from Bohemia and Moravia:

“My kroj is an Americanized kroj, it is not an authentic kroj from the Czech Republic. My grandmother actually made this kroj for a different girl, but I was able to track it down and get it back as a family heirloom.

“We design our own krojs and they all have a significant meaning. My red kroj that I wear is made out of my grandma’s wedding dress. I also have embroidered crosses to show my Catholic faith. So they all have stories behind them.”

You can follow this year’s edition of the Moravian Day Festival, including the traditional dance bands, on their Facebook page