YUKON — When Milo Shedeck talks about his Czech heritage, he does so with pride. But when he wants to truly express that pride, he picks up a saxophone.
Shedeck plays in the Bohemian Knights, a band made up of folks proud of their Czech heritage. The Knights will be playing at the Czech Hall during Yukon's annual Czech Festival, which starts Friday.
The Knights play country and western, polkas, waltzes, swing, Italian, the schottische and kids' favorites the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey.
But polka is in Shedeck's blood. He has played in a band since he was 14, beginning with the Charlie Belsky Orchestra. He also played in the Vitek Polka Band and the Jerry Kaplan Polka Band.
“I think it's more or less a pride thing with my heritage,” Shedeck said. “My son and my wife and our granddaughters carry that on, too. They've been contestants in the Junior Princess contest. They make their costumes, and much of the material is from Czechoslovakia.”
Shedeck knows virtually every detail of his heritage, but he has never been to the Czech Republic. It's one of those things he's always been meaning to do.
“My ancestors came from a small town on the border, and they came over here during the potato famine and started farming wheat,” he said. “I know so much about my family history, but I've never been there. Going to Prague is definitely on my bucket list.”
Before that happens, he'll spend many Saturday nights playing at the Czech Hall in Yukon for folks wanting to soak up a bit of his country's culture. He counts the Czech Festival as one of his favorite times of the year.
“It's just a lot of people dancing, enjoying different parts of our culture,” he said. “You've got kids doing the Chicken Dance and other folk dances. It's always a fun crowd with happy people enjoying the music.”
Shedeck can remember when the Czech Festival was just getting started 47 years ago. It had humble beginnings but has grown over the years. An estimated 30,000 people will attend this year's events in downtown Yukon.
If you go
The festival kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday with a carnival at Fourth and Elm in Yukon. Saturday's parade begins at 10 a.m. on Main Street.
There also will be Czech food, including kolaches and klobasa, available for purchase from 30 vendors.
Live music can be heard from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, outside the Czech Building at Fifth and Cedar.
There also will be more than 150 craft booths and activities for kids including a bungee trampoline, rock wall, inflatable slides and a mechanical bull.
For more information, call 206-8142 or go to www.czechhall.com or www.yukoncc.com and click on “events.”