By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Twitter: @PGJournal
Posted: October 18, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – Are you looking for a great festival this fall that doesn’t involve pumpkins, skeletons, scarecrows, or ghosts? Are you looking for an event that is both fun, but also gives an incredible historical perspective of Central Virginia? One of the most anticipated festivals of the year in all of the Commonwealth is set for next weekend.
The Prince George County Regional Heritage Center will host the 7th annual Virginia Czech and Slovak Folklife Festival on Saturday, October 19, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This hugely-popular free event will be held rain or shine at the Heritage Center, located at 6406 Courthouse Road, Prince George 23875. A fleet of golf carts will be available to transport individuals attending from the parking area to the Festival grounds, if desired. Dogs are welcome outside of the food service area and the museum buildings. There will be food, fun, games, animals, activities, history, dancing, music, and so much more than you could possibly imagine. This is one of those great festivals that you and your family and friends will not want to miss.
After the ravages of the American Civil War, the South had available farmland and was desperate for renewal of this land that had been laid-to-waste. They needed individuals with determination and knowledge of good farming practices. The Slavic people were experienced farmers and were enticed by promises of fertile land and a mild climate, especially those who had attempted to initially settle in the Midwest. Generations later, Prince George County is pleased to celebrate this heritage and culture with a unique Festival that salutes those brave settlers and their descendants that still remain in Prince George today.
This year is the 30th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. The theme this year is, Why the Early Settlers Left the “Old Country,” and Why Their Descendants Remain Here Today. Special music and dance will be provided by the AMERICAN SOKOL, of Washington, D.C. This will incorporate American folk songs, sung in the native language, and commemorative music for the Velvet Revolution anniversary. The invocation for the opening ceremony will be offered in Slovak by Pastor George Plvan, of one of our area’s historical Churches, well-over a century old, the Lutheran Church of Saint John the Baptist, of Emporia.
At this year’s festival, there will be traditional music and dance—such as the polka and waltz, colorful folk costumes, kielbasy–a most delicious sausage, and tantalizing kolache—the most exquisite puffed pastries filled with fruit. Year-after-year, attendees just can’t seem to get enough of the wide variety of delicious Czech and Slovak cuisine. There will also be demonstrations of traditional farm techniques, to include the use of farm animals. Many of these traditional ethnic farm techniques and practices are still used today. Just a few of the favorites of children attending the festival each year are the cabbage roll game, the ring toss, corn-hole, face-painting, and the delicious food.
A joyous traditional children’s maypole dance is scheduled for the early afternoon. The agricultural traditions of life of the immigrants will be explored, with expanded farm displays and animals for all ages. All of the Heritage Center’s galleries will be open for the day, with special exhibits, as well as its permanent displays, including the Czech and Slovak Gallery. The National Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has loaned the Heritage Center an exhibit for the Festival. This exhibit is entitled, “Twists & Turns: The Story of Sokol.” Traditional food and beverages will be available for sale throughout the day. All proceeds from the Virginia Czech and Slovak Folklife Festival support the work of the Heritage Center.
“It is truly a privilege to welcome visitors from around the country, the Commonwealth, and members of this community for this annual celebration,” remarked Carol Bowman, Director, Prince George Regional Heritage Center. “Traditions and heritage come alive at this event for all generations. It is so rewarding to see all of the smiling faces in our galleries and at the goings-on all around the event.”
Many of the visitors to the festival each year are from neighboring Dinwiddie County. Dinwiddie also has a substantial Czech and Slovak presence, and rich heritage and culture. In 1813, a young 15-year-old girl, Lydia Zitta, left her home and family in Czechoslovakia to immigrate to America, hoping for a better life. When she arrived, she lived with friends of her family that had earlier come to Dinwiddie County. Many years later, Lydia’s great-nephews discovered the letters she had sent back home to her family and the letters they had sent to her. The letters detailed the great love Lydia had for her new country, as well as her homesickness for her family in their little village near Prague. The content of these letters was so heart-warming and descriptive of the culture, it was eventually translated into a small play, “Letters from Lydia.” The play has been performed to much critical acclaim; including at a previous Folklife Festival.
The Prince George County Regional Heritage Center is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. It tells the story of one of Virginia’s most historic and oldest counties. The Center is termed “regional” because its story is truly one of America’s regions, that at one-time, stretched to part of today’s North Carolina border and the Blue Ridge Mountains. In fact, seventeen counties and five partial-counties came from the original Prince George County, which was founded in 1703.
In 2015, the Heritage Center opened its second exhibition area, the Cultural Heritage Building, which is dedicated to telling the story of immigration and its importance to this region. The focal point of this building is, “The New Bohemia,” a gallery of exhibits dedicated to the migration and settlement of the Czech and Slovak people, and a celebration of their culture. The Heritage Center is currently seeking funding for the Fire and Emergency Crew Museum, and the planned state-of-the-art exhibit devoted to the heritage of the James River, that will be housed in the Harrison Gallery.
The work of the Heritage Center is supported by a 7.5% allocation of the tourism Lodging Tax. The balance of the Center’s operations is derived from the community, public and private donations, and grants awarded for specific projects. The Center has no admission fee, and its facilities are available without charge, to all civic or county organizations.
For additional information on the Prince George Regional Heritage Center, telephone (804) 863-0212 or email PGHistory firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributions may be mailed to The Prince George Regional Heritage Center, P.O. Box 452, 6406 Courthouse Road, Prince George, Virginia 23875.
Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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