Sweet! A Heritage Festival for Bohemians like Me!

Growing up Bohemian meant a few things for me: my grandma swearing under her breath in a foreign language, delicious pastries with strange names that were unknown to my grade school pals, and everybody making gypsy jokes.

We certainly didn't have a festival in my small town, so I was pretty excited when I read about this upcoming event. Perhaps they'll have apricot and/or poppyseed kolaches like my grandma used to make...

Sokol Minnesota’s annual Czech and Slovak Festival returns to the Highland Park Pavilion, 1200 Montreal Avenue, Saint Paul, Sunday, September 19 from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. This colorful festival features Czech and Slovak food, costumed dancers, the Sokol Singers, as well as the Zuhrah Shrine Band!

The Food

This year’s menu features a wonderful selection of tasty authentic Czech and Slovak recipes including Slovak halušky s kapustou (dumplings with sauerkraut) and holubky (cabbage rolls); potato or cheese pirohy (dumplings), Czech žebírka (pork ribs), kurací paprikáš s knedlíkem (chicken paprika with dumplings), and Bohemian jitrnice (sausage). This year’s version of this wonderful pork sausage comes from Montgomery, Minnesota, where it is made with pearl barley. Not to be missed are oblozené chlebícky (open-faced sandwiches) made-to-order with cold cuts, eggs, cheese, or mayonnaise-based salads such as ham, pea, or potato. Booya is back! Made from the time-tested Sokol Camp (Pine City) recipe, the booya is for sale in individual servings or in bulk. The Sweet Shop has a wonderful selection of kolache (pastries), potica (a Slovak walnut and poppy seed delicacy), cookies, and other treats. Beverage selections include wine, beer, and specially brewed root beer.

The Program

The festival program reflects centuries of Czech and Slovak traditions. The Festival opens with recordings of beautiful folksongs brought over from the old country, including many sung by our own Sokol Minnesota Senior Singers. Under the direction of Georgiana Dolejsi, they share not only beautiful melodies, but also use the correct pronunciation of the mother-tongues and offer the true spirit of all the songs.

The theme of folk music will run through the program, 11:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. with concertinas and the Zuhrah Shrine Band. Musical selections of middle European marches follow the presentation of the national flags and our American, Czech, and Slovak anthems. Musicians are invited to bring accordions or concertinas . Everyone can enjoy a beer and lend their voices to the singing.

After a welcome from Sokol Minnesota President Joe Landsberger, the program highlights Sokol's message of a healthy mind in a healthy body. The adult exercise group performs a prostna that it performed last year in Fort Worth, Texas, and again this summer in Spillville, Iowa. A prostna is a callisthenic drill performed at slets (literally, gatherings of Sokols, or falcons). The first slet in Prague in 1882 celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Sokol organization; slets continue to this day through out the world.

What is music without dance? Our Sokol Minnesota children’s groups, under the direction of Louise Wessinger, perform in three age groups. The Mlada Skupina (young group) love to sing and dance. The grade-school-age children, Taneční Mládež (Dancing Youth) tackle dances with more difficult steps and sequences, and the Taneční Teens enjoy dances that challenge their abilities. This year the boys created a dance using stilts, and the girls countered with a dance using haying rakes (rabe) from Bohemia.

The St. Paul Czech and Slovak Folk Dancers are looking forward to their 50th Anniversary in 2012 with a project called 50 for 50, as in 50 dances for 50 years. They perform a trio of dances presented earlier this year at the Festival of Nations demonstrating the Czech passion for music and dance. Miss Czech-Slovak Minnesota 2010, Debbie Jindra of Montgomery, Minnesota, performs a Moravian folkdance used in her competition.

Vendors and Exhibits

Craft vendor booths include Sokol Minnesota’s Krásné Dárky (Beautiful gifts) gift shop with special items, t-shirts, and books, including the Sokol Minnesota Cookbook, and Sokol Minnesota Sings songbooks, CDs, and tapes, with Sokol marching, folk, and patriotic songs in Czech, Slovak, and English. Anita Smisek, an avid singer and collector of Bohemian, Moravian, and Slovak folksongs and music will sell her CDs and sheet music. Anita says that if you want to know a culture, you must experience its music.

Informational community kiosks will include the Czech-Slovak Genealogical Society International and a Healthy West 7th display by United Family Medicine’s community clinic program.

Join Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota to celebrate 150 years of Czech and Slovak presence in the West End of Saint Paul. The Highland Park Pavilion seats 200, giving protection from rain and sun, as well as wide-open views to the park. Additional outdoor seating and a children’s play area are nearby. For more information call 651-297-9000 or email events@sokolmn.org

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

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