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Czech festival celebrates heritage, tradition

By BY JENNIFER PREYSS - JLPREYSS@VICAD.COM
Sept. 25, 2011 at 4:25 a.m.
Updated Sept. 26, 2011 at 4:26 a.m.

Georgia Rogers, right, congratulates Jean Blaha-Davis as she won a cake and bread at the cake/pastry wheel Sunday. Blaha-Davis says she spent about eight dollars on chances before finally winning.

Czech pride filled the Victoria Community Center on Sunday.

The 26th annual Victoria County Czech Heritage Festival drew about 1,000 visitors, many donning traditional Czech apparel.

Festival's entertainment chairwoman Marjorie Matula, one of the original organizers more than two decades ago, said Czech traditions are worth sustaining.

"We hold this event to preserve our heritage and show appreciation for where we came from," Matula said, wearing a customary blue and red Czech kroj. Matula described a kroj as traditional Czech attire for women.

Many of the men wore similarly colored vests and hats, with ribbons and fabric woven in the Czech Republic.

In addition to the live and silent auction, patrons of Czech Fest engaged in face painting, caricature drawings, homemade wine and beer tastings and live polka music from Chris Rybak Band, Shiner Hobo Band and the Red Ravens Band.

Traditional Czech fare, including a variety of kolaches and homemade chicken noodle soup, were available for purchase.

Special guest Amy Holecek, Miss Texas Czech-Slovak Queen 2011, drove four hours to the festival, wearing a pink and white glittered kroj, and knee-high black boots.

"The thing I am most proud of my ancestry and my heritage is how rich and celebrated it is, especially in Texas. And also all of the trouble and hardships that my ancestors went through so that I could have a better life in America," the 18-year-old West resident said.

Holecek's pink kroj was an Americanized version, she said, and differed vastly from the competition kroj worn during the pageant.

"The kroj that I wore for Nationals was from Moravia and was over 100 years old and has a lot of symbolic things on it," Holecek said.

Money raised at Czech Fest are put toward scholarship funds for pageants like the one Holecek competed in, and other Czech heritage events. Matula said local funds are also being set aside for the eventual building of a Czech Heritage Museum in Victoria.

"We haven't found a property yet, but we're working on putting it together," Matula said.

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