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Czech fest draws thousands to Yukon for culture, cuisine

Now in its 47th year, organizers say the 2012 Czech Festival drew as many as 50,000 people to the streets of Yukon in central Oklahoma. The event featured traditional Czech food, crafts and dancing.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Published: October 7, 2012

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.

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