Preserving the Czech heritage starts at a young age as Amy Kastanek welcomes visitors to Wilber. Photo: P. Michael Whye
Wilber Czech Festival
This celebration of Czech culture owes its
existence to the large wave of Czech immigration that arrived in
Nebraska during the second half of the 19th century. Wilber became
a center of Czech settlement and was noted for performances of
Czech theater and music. In 1962, concerned over the rapid
disappearance of the once-thriving heritage, four Wilber citizens
brainstormed for an impetus to a Czech renaissance and came up with
the idea of a festival.
With the support of the townspeople and the state
governor, the first Czech Festival was held that same year to
startling success. It has been held the first weekend in August
every year since, with local people appearing in homemade costumes,
Czech music playing everywhere, and plenty of authentic food such
as duck, potato dumplings, kolacy, sauerkraut, and locally made
sausages such as
Traditional dances such as the
beseda are performed by
children and young adults, and public dances to the strains of
polkas and waltzes are held into the night. A parade of costumed
marching bands and the National Czech Queen contest are featured
events. A unique highlight is the
Pageant of the Czech
People, a staged production of narrated vignettes portraying
the national history and legends.
Run by the all-volunteer organization of Nebraska
Czechs, the festival draws between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors
annually to the town of 1,500. Documentation includes a detailed
14-page history written by one of the festival founders, Joe T.
Tales of the Czechs, a book by the same author; a
cookbook of Nebraska Czech recipes; photographs, two videotapes,
and an audiocassette from previous festivals; and a number of
artifacts including a costumed doll, child's costume, and
traditionally painted egg.
Originally submitted by: J. Robert Kerrey, Senator.
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