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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Young girl in Czech outfit greets visitors to Wilber
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 jaternice and jelita. 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. Vosoba; 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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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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