Nebraska Czechs: Chapters, Festivals, and Queens

NECzechslogoWhen I first became a Czech queen, I scoured the internet trying to find information about chapter and event dates. I searched everything I could, but struggled to find the information I needed. I wanted to put together this resource for you, so you don’t have the same problems. I hope it is useful 😉

The Nebraska Czechs

The association for the Czechs of Nebraska was formed on May 11, 1963 after the success of the first Dwight, Wilber, and Omaha Czech festivals. They became known as the Nebraska Czechs Incorporated and encouraged each community to form their own local organizations, which became known as chapters. The following list is the year each chapter joined according to the Nebraska Czechs website:

1963 Dwight
1963 Wilber
1963 Schuyler
1964 Omaha Czech Cultural Club
1964 Komensky Club- UNL
1970 Saunders County
1971 Fremont
1972 Sokol South Omaha
1973 Lincoln
1976 South Central
19xx Butler County
19xx Clarkson
1980 Panhandle
19xx Sokol Omaha
19xx Prague
2002 York

Today, the list of chapters has shortened from 16 to 11, with each chapter annually hosting a festival or event and crowning a queen to compete at the State Pageant. Nebraska is the only state that has chapter contestants that compete at the state pageant. While other states have candidates that can represent a certain area or group, they do not have a unified state organization like the Nebraska Czechs.

Each chapter is unique not only in their location, but also their history, community, and people. Czech people have been a part of the story of Nebraska since it became a state, and the residents stay connected to their community and heritage through their chapters and festivals. Here is a little information about each chapter and when they have their festivals.

Chapters and Festivals

The Nebraska Czechs of Wilber is the oldest, consistently running chapter in Nebraska. The chapter usually includes the surrounding areas of Crete and Clatonia and in 1965 officially became the Czech Capital of the United States.  This means that it is the most well-known Czech community in the States and the host of the Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant. It is also the location of a wealth of knowledge about the Czech communities via the Dvoracek Memorial Library and Wilber Czech Museum. Wilber has beseda dancers and an alumni band that perform at almost every event, usually held at the Wilber Sokol. There is also a historic hotel in Wilber that has stood since 1895.

Wilber crowns its queen the third Friday in March every year and the Wilber festival and National Pageant is the first weekend in August. This year it is August 5-7.

The Omaha Czech Cultural Club is the second oldest and only remaining Omaha chapter.  The Omaha chapter was known for its Sokol or gymnastics program and was housed in an area called Little Bohemia because of its large Czech population. Omaha is still home to the Bohemian Café, a Czech restaurant serving all the hearty flavors of the homeland.

Until last year, the Omaha festival was located at the Sokol Auditorium. Now the festival and crowning is the third Sunday in April at the Millard Social Hall. This year it falls on April 17th.

The Nebraska Czechs of Lincoln is the third oldest chapter and located in the capital city. Lincoln was home to the Capital City Czech Choraliers, a Czech chorus consisting mostly of Lincoln members, that disbanded in the early 2000s. The Lincoln Czechs work closely with the University’s Czech programs including the Komensky Club, the Czech Language Foundation, and Robitschek Scholars. They also have a strong connection to the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International and the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences.

The Lincoln Czechs hold their festival and crowning the first Sunday in May. This year it is May 1st.

The Nebraska Czechs of South Central are located in Hastings, Nebraska and includes the area of Adams County. The South Central Czechs have a grand festival each year with lots of music, kolache, and queen talent.

The South Central Festival and crowning is the first Saturday in June. This year the festival is on June 4th.

The Nebraska Czechs of Butler County are located in David City, Nebraska and includes the towns of Bruno, Abie, Linwood, and Brainard. Dwight is also a city in Butler County, but because they have your own festival and thriving community, they have formed their own chapter. Abie is the home of Abie’s Place, a local bar and restaurant with a counter full of kolache and live polka bands every Friday.

The Butler County Czechs crown their queen the third Sunday in March. They do not have festival, but have many local events.

The Nebraska Czechs of Clarkson were established in the late 1970’s and are home to the Miss Czech-Slovak Nebraska Pageant. The town of Clarkson is home to the Clarkson Czech museum, opera house, and beseda dancers. During festival weekend, the entire town and surrounding areas put on a huge festival filled with music, food, and culture. The pageant is the focus Saturday evening and showcases all of the Nebraska Czech Queens. On Sunday there is a polka mass at the Catholic Church and parade that winds through most of the town.

The Clarkson Czechs crown their queen the last Thursday in February. The Clarkson Czech Festival is the third weekend in June. This year the festival will be on June 24-26.

The Nebraska Czechs of the Panhandle are located in Sidney, Nebraska and includes the western most part of our state. The panhandle include Alliance, Chadron, Kimbal, and Scottsbluff.

The Panhandle Czechs hold their festival and crowning the last Saturday in September at the Lodgepole Community Center in Lodgepole, Nebraska.

The Nebraska Czechs of Prague are located in Saunders County in the Bohemian Alps of Nebraska and were formed in the late 80’s- early 90’s. Prague is named after the capital of the Czech Republic and is home to the Worlds Largest Kolache. The town bar and restaurant, Kolache Korner is known for its great Czech food and has always been family owned.

The Prague Czechs have their festival the third Saturday in September. This year their festival is on September 25th.

The Nebraska Czechs of York is the newest chapter to join, almost 40 years after the formation of the Nebraska Czechs Incorporated. Despite being the youngest chapter, the York Czechs work hard to keep the Czech heritage going in York. They have brought giant Czech puppets from the Czech Republic, featured an exhibit on “The Assassination of Nazi General Heydrich,” held many events for children at the York Library, and hosted the Consul General Lizec this last October.

The York Czechs usually crown their queen the third Thursday of March. Their festival is located at the York Convention Center the third Sunday in October. This year it will be held on October 16th.

The Komensky Club took a hiatus and rejoined the Nebraska Czechs Incorporated in 2013. The club was established in 1904, making it technically the oldest chapter, though not of the Nebraska Czechs. The club is named after Jan Amos Komensky, a Czech philosopher and bishop, who is the father of modern education. The Komensky Club works in cooperation with the Czech language department at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

The Komensky Club doesn’t hold a festival, but a series of events in March that is called Czech March. The final one is March 30th with a lecture on Czech history.

The Nebraska Czechs of Dwight were technically the first chapter back in 1963. After a break, the Dwight Czechs were reinstated in 2016. Though they are one of the smallest communities at 250 people, they still have a large festival and have beseda dancing with the Dwight Czech Dancers.

The Dwight Czechs have their festival and crown their royalty the last full weekend in July. This year it is held on July 30-31st.

Queens

If you are a queen and are looking for more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me! I will be posting a 2016 events list soon and continuing to post about my experiences and stuff you need to know as a queen.

Here are a couple recent posts to Czech out in the mean time:

P.S. I am sorry that this article is so long! I know it is a lot of information, very quickly, but I hope you have learned something and found it helpful! Let me know what you thought of this post. Do you have anything to add? Questions? Comment below or on the Facebook page.

 

The Secret Struggles of a Czech Queen

imageOne of the first concerns I hear when I’m talking to someone about becoming a Czech Queen is time commitment. My response is “how much time do you want to commit?” Some chapters here in Nebraska ask for you to go to a certain amount of festivals or events. Some ask you to come to their festival and anything else is up to you.

For me, once I started going to festivals and got involved, I was hooked. I spent more time as a state queen traveling then as a national queen, because as a state queen the events were local and for nationals I tried to visit other states and different types of Czech communities. The amount of time you spend is really up to you, but the the more things you go to, the more you will experience and learn.

The concern of time was followed closely by insecurity and the uncertainty of being able to succeed at each category that the contestants compete in. This is hard because you will show your skills in speaking and charisma, talent, knowledge of Czech history, culture, and traditions, and folk costumes. This is a lot to absorb at first and can be intimidating, but even with minimal previous knowledge, everything can be learned and anyone who puts in the effort can succeed.

I want to share a secret with you: during my three years as a reigning Czech queen I went through many seasons of change. In each of these seasons I struggled with something new on top of learning the ins and outs of being a Czech queen.

1. SPRING: I was crowned chapter queen in March during student teaching. It was really hard for me to even carve out time to make it to my own coronation while I was student teaching. I had very demanding teachers and I was co-directing the musical. There was no time for sleep, let alone time to start something new, but I just felt I needed to do it.

2. SPRING: I prepared for state while student teaching. The Nebraska pageant is the second week of June and school didn’t get out until the last week of May. Oh, and I planned my graduation party during this time 😉

3. SUMMER: I spent the entire summer traveling. Every weekend I went to a new festival or parade. It was a blast to meet all the interesting people and experience how the culture and traditions are different from place to place. It was also eye opening because I never knew that these events and culture existed in the small areas around eastern Nebraska or that there were communities in the surrounding states.

4. FALL: I spent the Fall of my state reign in studying abroad in Brno, Czech Republic. This was the best decision I ever made. It was hard to be away from home for family events, but I had so many incredible experiences. I made friends from around the world. I learned more about the culture and myself in my six months abroad than I did in the entirety of my college experience.

5. WINTER: My return home the week of Christmas was a rough transition. I was thrilled to see my family and spend the holidays with them, but once I had to settle back into life here I was incredibly unhappy. I missed everything about living in Europe from my friends, to my classes, to the atmosphere of Brno, the ability to travel, and the culture I was immersed in. It hurt how much I missed living in the Czech Republic and when I returned it felt like a part of me was missing.

6. SPRING: My fiancé of six years and I broke up and I decided to return to the Czech Republic. I spent most of May and a week of June back in Brno. I couch surfed and met with all my friends. I stayed with a friend who was living in southern Bohemia for a week while I started research on a Fulbright program and returned just in time to pass on my crown to the next Nebraska queen.

7. SUMMER: In August I was crowned 1st runner up at nationals. It was really hard for me to get everything after I came home from the Czech Republic. I spent most of the spring making my costume and the summer practicing facts and my talent, but I did it almost completely on my own. I was working full time, and the frustration of handling all this alone is something I don’t want to see anyone else go through.

8. FALL: I started dating my now husband at Nationals. We started seeing each other over the summer, but nationals weekend we made it official.

9. WINTER- SPRING: I really struggled raising funds to travel during my reign. There is not a lot of funds for the queens to travel and the year I was crowned the pageant had a crisis and almost didn’t make the crowning gifts. So, I wanted to travel around the Midwest to experience the other pageants and festivals and it took almost all of my savings to do so. It was worth it. Everyone was really helpful in offering their homes and meals to help make it happen, but it was hard.

10. SUMMER: My last summer as a reigning queen I started helping on the Nebraska pageant committee and gave my crown away in August. It was an odd transition from being a queen to being a “has been.” I have a passion to help other queens get started and to experience all the cool things I did without having to struggle with the same things, so I started mentoring. Three months later I started planning my wedding.

I know it may seem daunting at first to become a Czech queen. Over the seasons of your reign you may go through some of the same struggles. There will be a time commitment and you may feel insecure at times, but know that there will be others who are going through the same struggles and many people who want to help you, including me!

When I was first asked to apply I had very little knowledge of the Czech community and had never been to a festival, but just three months later I was crowned Miss Czech-Slovak Nebraska, so it’s possible!
I hope you found this article helpful! I would love to hear about the seasons of your reign or any of your concerns starting out! Comment below or go to the MyCzechList Facebook page and tell me your thoughts.

The Top 3 Reasons Why I Decided to Become a Czech Queen

image.jpegCzech festival season is fast approaching, and that means that each chapter is choosing a new queen. It’s been four years since I made the decision to become a Czech Queen. As I stop and reminisce, I thought it would be helpful to encourage any new queen candidates and let you know how I felt going into the process.

When I was asked to apply for Czech Queen I was a little overwhelmed. I had never been to a festival. I didn’t speak a word of Czech (unless you count the naughty ones). I didn’t have a costume. I knew absolutely nothing about what it meant to be Czech.

I was quickly reassured that all I needed was the desire to learn and everything else would fall into place. The more I contemplated the decision, the more I was enthralled by the idea. Here are are just three of the main reasons I decided to become a Czech Queen:

1. Intrigue
I was interested in learning more about the Czech community. I was not raised going to festivals or polka dances. My experience consisted of only a few button accordion lessons for a school project. I am curious by nature and always up to learning something new so I figured “what better way to learn and assimilate then be queen?

2. The opportunity to learn more about my heritage
My experience with my heritage included food, genealogy, and a couple of stories my papa told me about his grandparents. This was a great way to immerse myself in discovering what it meant to be of Czech descent. I would get to “Czech” out my genealogy on a deeper level and meet new family members who had done their own research. It’s a cool feeling to connect with your ancestry and not be absorbed in your own life.

3. A chance to compete
While I am not necessarily a competitive person, I do love to perform. I would have a reason to continue learning to play the accordion and discover more about Czech music. Plus, I’d never been the kind of person who wanted to compete in pageants. I didn’t mind however, the idea of dressing up in a folk costume, learning facts about the Czech Republic, and performing in front of a crowd.

Once I began attending festivals I was hooked. I loved the costumes, dances, and opportunities to meet with others who loved being Czech. This opportunity lead to me learning the language, studying abroad, and shaped my world view. My life path changed the day I decided to become a Czech Queen and I haven’t looked back since.

Has there been a time in your life that changed everything? Tell me about it here or on facebook!