Preps underway for annual Czech-Slovak Folklife Festival

By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Twitter: @PGJournal
Posted: October 19, 2018 | 12:30 p.m. 

PRINCE GEORGE – Prince George County will again host the tremendously-popular Virginia Czech-Slovak Folklife Festival. This will be the 6th year for the festival, and it will be held on Saturday, October 20, on the grounds of the beautiful historic Prince George County Courthouse and Heritage Center, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Visitors come from all over the state and beyond to attend the annual festival. This year, the festival carries the theme, “Why Did They come to Virginia?” Festival attendees will see and hear first-hand, stories of the early Czech and Slovak citizens, and why it was here that they came to call home. One of the early Churches, St. Paul’s, will be the featured Church with special exhibits that remain from that parish.

 Since 2013, the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center, the Virginia Czech, and Slovak Heritage Society, and the County of Prince George have partnered to celebrate the rich and vibrant history and culture of the Czech and Slovak families that immigrated to this area. 

The Folklife Festival has become so important and popular in the Commonwealth’s tourism and culture that Virginia delegate Emily Brewer (R-64) recently presented a commendation honoring the Virginia Czech-Slovak Folklife Festival on behalf of the Virginia House of Delegates to the Prince George Board of Supervisors.

“In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, there was a migration of Czech and Slovak immigrants to Prince George, Dinwiddie, and surrounding areas,” said Marlene Waymack, Prince George County Board of Supervisors. “These immigrants were fleeing from wars, famine, and oppressive rulers. They came at a time when they were sorely needed to replenish the farmland laid waste by the civil war. As expert farmers, they bought land and began the task of renewal. They also built churches in which to worship, which had been denied to some in Europe. These settlers flourished and today have many descendants living on the same restored farms. Czech and Slovak immigrants were hard-working, and they soon had the war-torn areas productive and flourishing again. The festival to be held on October 20th celebrates their success and their culture! Prince George County is very proud to host this celebration!!!”

At this year’s festival, there will be traditional music and dance—such as the polka and waltz, colorful folk costumes, delicious kolbasy (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. This event will be held rain or shine at the Heritage Center, located at 6406 Courthouse Road, Prince George, Virginia 23875. A fleet of golf carts will transport folks from the parking area to the festival grounds if desired. Dogs are welcome outside of the food service area and the museum buildings.

Just a few of the favorites of children attending the festival each year are the cabbage roll game, the ring toss, corn-hole, the face-painting, and the delicious foods. All of the Center’s galleries will be open with special exhibits for the day 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 Center an exhibit for the festival, “Voices of Vision.”

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.

“It is truly a privilege to welcome visitors from around the Country as well as members of this community for this annual celebration,” said Carol Bowman, Director, Prince George Heritage Center. “Traditions and heritage come alive at this event for all generations. One of our visitors last year commented that they had never seen so many smiling people in one place!”

You and your family will not want to miss one of the most popular, award-winning,  Virginia festivals this fall—the 6th Annual Virginia Czech-Slovak FolkLlife Festival! Ethnic food, dress, dance, culture, and so much more make this extremely popular event an essential on your fall to-do list!

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