YUKON — It takes only three things to keep a Czech party Czech: Beer, dancing and food.
But mostly food, said Joanie Jezek Jedlicka, a volunteer with Oklahoma Czechs Inc., host of the 2012 Czech Festival held Saturday in downtown Yukon.
“Czechs love to party, they love to dance and sing, but mostly they love to eat,” she said.
Like football Fridays, the annual festival is a homecoming of sorts for Yukon's pioneer Czech families. Some still have strong roots in town and others have ventured out across the region and country.
All of Jedlicka's grandparents emigrated from Czechoslovakia to Yukon in the early 1900s, she said. They were attracted to its fertile soil, she said, and though subsequent generations have abandoned farming, they stay true to their heritage.
“We have never spoken English at home,” she said. “Even my puppies and kittens, they don't know English.”
Now in its 47th year, organizers say the Czech festival draws as many as 50,000 people to the streets of Yukon, where traditional fair food vendors have a hard time competing with the organization's homemade kolaches and klobasys.
Kolaches are a fruit-filled pastry, similar to a Danish. Klobasys, the Czech version of bratwurst are served on rye, with or without sauerkraut. Both are festival mainstays.
The festival's food team ordered 1,500 pounds of meat this year, said Steve Wilson, who worked Saturday to meet the demands of a line a dozen people deep at the Czech Building on N Fifth.
“The only time you can get it is here,” he said. “People wait 12 months to get them, I'm telling you.”
More than just food
Under a wooden awning outside, Elaine Benda led a couple dozen young men and women through traditional Czech dances.
Clad in traditional folk garb, called “kroje,” and decorated lavishly with embroidery and sequins, the dancers stomped their feet and clapped their hands to polka music.
In “Muzska Skok,” a dance from the Silesia region, men carrying axes danced in circles, occasionally clapping their axes together and sometimes swinging them wildly through the air. In “Do Kolecko, Forma Kola” – “Dances with Circles” — women stutter-stepped individually and in a giant spinning circle, waving tasseled rings in the air.
As head of the local Czech School, Benda said her students aim to learn about and teach the culture's language and geography through dance.
“Each region has its own dances,” she explained. “So that's how we're approaching it.”
The cold, blustery day kicked off with a parade down Main Street and ended with the Czech-Slovak Royalty Pageant.
Winners were: Katie Holman, queen; Kelsie Rohling, junior queen; Makinzey Shirazie, princess; and Anthony Brown, prince.
Some came for the carnival, and others walked a midway that included Czech food and crafts, as well as typical American fare such as turkey legs, roasted almonds and cotton candy. Still others flocked to the beer garden.
Linda Weaver of Oklahoma City, joined by her friend Loyal Furry, of Norman, said she came to Czech Fest for the first time this year to immerse herself in the culture.
Dining and watching the dancers, Weaver said she forgot about the cold.
“I'm just enjoying the festivities, the music, and I'm enjoying the sausage, or whatever I have here,” she said.