Despite the day-long drizzles, the 22nd Czech & Slovak Festival held at the Highland Pavilion in St. Paul September 18 remained a fun and exciting celebration. Hundreds braved the weather to enjoy a játernice (pronounced ya-ter-nit-sa), a hot Czech sausage, cups and gallons of Booya, traditional beer, and a couple of sweet Kolache.
The vendor and information booths outside the pavilion got wet but remained open the entire event. Traditional dance groups in all their colors and glory made their appearances at 2:00 p.m. A puppet show enacting Little Red Riding Hood done in the Czech language delighted the crowd, said Joyce Tesarek, one of the event organizers.
Music groups played traditional music throughout the celebration. Festival-goers in their colorful Czech and Slovak costumes, adult couples, and a group of youngsters couldn’t help but dance to the Slov-Czec Trio, actually a quartet for the event, which provided lively music to the end of the event. The dancer groups participated, by invitation, at the DoZinky Festival on Saturday, another 20-plus year annual event that promotes Czech culture and activity (held the third Saturday of September each year in New Prague). This dynamic duo allowed celebrants, some coming from Nebraska and Iowa, to enjoy a double dose of authentic Czech Slovak food, fun and camaraderie.
Sokol Minnesota, which sponsored Sunday’s festival, is part of American Sokol, a nationwide organization of 135 years, whose mission is to promote fitness, educational, cultural and social programs to its members and communities through its 35 American Sokol units (activity clubs) operating in North America. Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska form its Western District. There are other worldwide Sokol organizations; the parent organization is in Prague, which is hosting an all-Sokol Sleet (mass gymnastics and activity event) in June 2012.
I am trying to stop short of gushing praise for this event and the Czech and Slovak community and community center I encountered as I prepared this story. I was invited to come to the Czech and Slovak CSPS (Česko-Slovanský Podporující Spolek, or Czech Slovak Protective Society) Hall the day before the festival to see the thousands of Kolache being prepared for the event. (Of course I had to sample them to report how sweet they are!) In addition to their hospitality, I was impressed with the great range of programs running through this Hall and offered to its members and the whole community: theater and music in its historic theater stage (the oldest theater stage in Minnesota), dinners and pot lucks, speakers and reading groups, classes in travel, cooking (including Christmas “bake and take” delights), crafts, language, fitness and gymnastics for tots (tumbling), children (beginner through advanced gymnastics) and adults, and youth and teen folk dancing, just to throw out a couple! Take a look at www.sokolmn.org or stop at the Hall, 383 Michigan Street, St. Paul (Michigan and West 7th). An open house with tours, complimentary beer and Czech Slovak treats is coming up Sunday, October 9.