WEST, Texas (AP) — The town of West has thrown open the annual celebration of its Czech heritage — the first Westfest since a deadly fertilizer plant explosion tore through the small Central Texas community.
The festival, which opened Friday and runs through Sunday, will proceed as usual this year with few reminders of the explosion that killed 15 people in April.
"We've had our memorials," said Brian Muska, a West City Council member. "We want Westfest to be Westfest, and we want to celebrate what West is about."
There will be a brief moment of silence, and first responders who died in the explosion will be recognized as honorary grand marshals in the Saturday parade, but organizers hope to stick to Westfest traditions that have stayed more or less the same for decades.
Attendees can listen to a polka band, watch traditional dances or try their hand at a kolache bake-off. There will also be plenty of sausages, beer-bread sandwiches, sauerkraut and pivo, Czech for beer.
"We certainly will always remember those who served their community well, but it's about . celebrating the life of the community," said John Hurtick, who has been president of Westfest since 1981.
The festival, in its 38th year, not only brings business to West, but it also serves as a nonprofit that reinvests in local organizations. Local groups apply for funding, and money made at the festival goes into a pool. Then the funds are given out to chosen applicants. Depending on the year, anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 has been spread among community organizations, Hurtick said.