BEATRICE – The annual Czech Festival in the nation’s Czech Capital is back, after a one-year break due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 60th Annual Wilber Czech Festival gets underway Friday and lasts through the weekend. President of the Nebraska Czechs of Wilber, Teri Shestak says people are happy the celebration is returning.
"It feels wonderful, it's really great. I think the people of Wilber are all excited to have it back...and I think everyone in the surrounding area is ready to come back to the festival."
A Thursday pre-celebration is held for volunteers who donate a lot of hours for the annual event in the Saline County Community. Vice President of the Nebraska Czechs of Wilber, Randy Kozeal says the celebration has a wider reach than you might think. "They'll be from as far away as New York, Florida, the central states, the west coast....we even have people who travel here from the Czech Republic. It truly has become a very national-reaching festival and its just wonderful that people travel that far for this."
Friday, vendors begin operating on Wilber’s Main Street, and a Children’s Parade is at seven p.m. Just prior to that, several people who have volunteered for the celebration will be honored with community awards. Shestak says the volunteers make the event successful. "The churches and all of the organizations that kind of just come together and you touch base with people, but each committee and each group that works and gets ready for it...does what they need to do. Friday comes around, and it's already to go."
The Wilber-Clatonia Alumni Band is back to perform at the festival and march in the weekend parades, both Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Kozeal says this year’s theme honors the Wilber Volunteer Fire Department, which has been in existence for 127 years. "We're so proud of the first responders and volunteer fire department. And, the key word is volunteer. Very fortunately, we have young people, middle aged people and then some older folks that all work tremendously well in responding to whatever medical emergency needs or fire...so it's a great thing that we're able to honor them for that and have them be the grand marshals in the parade."
Shestak says any first responder attending the celebration can get a free theme button from the celebration information booth on Main Street. She also encourages visitors to check out the many displays during the festival.
"The museum is definitely one of them....we have a brand new croix display, of various croix from all over in the Czech and Moravian Republic and Slovaks. Also, we have an art show in the Cultural Center. There is also some activities for the National Czech Queen pageant that go on there. There's the quilt show that's held over in the extension office. The funeral home as a croix and accordion display going on......also the Dvoracek Library has a wonderful Czech room."
There will be music from various bands and Czech food throughout the three days. Huge parades happen at two p.m., both Saturday and Sunday. This year’s Miss Czech-Slovak Pageant features eight contestants, who compete Saturday and Sunday, with the queen crowning near the end of the festival, at Wilber’s Outdoor Theatre.
Tune in to News Channel Nebraska on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. CT to watch the parade.