Czech Harvest Festival “Dozinky” in Bannister celebrates ethnicity
By Emma Palova
Bannister, Michigan- For years I’ve been going to the Czech Harvest Festival to honor my Czech heritage. I consider it a miracle that I even found out about it through a press release to the Ionia Sentinel-Standard from an insurance agent.
Considering that it takes place in the middle of nowhere in Central Michigan in the August heat, I think about what made me go that first time.
First of all, it must have been curiosity if anyone will speak Czech there at all. I am by nature a lover of new things, whatever they may be.
I was in for a surprise. A gentleman sang folk songs in Czech even though he didn’t speak a word of Czech to the lonely tunes of an accordion. A Czech polka band accompanied the hymns at the Czech Heritage Mass at the Saint Cyril Catholic Church. The hymns were in Czech. The gifts included bread and plum brandy.
The harvest festival opens with a parade of dancers and singers carrying decorated rakes and sickles. Then follow the three national anthems, American, Czech and Slovak.
And the absolute highlight were the dances in folk costumes starting with two-year-olds all the way up to 70.
Coming from a region in Moravia in Czech Republic which is big on folk costumes and traditions, I felt a sincere appreciation for dance masters Tom & Diane Bradley. The Bradleys completely recreated the Czech tradition of celebrating the wheat harvest based on research only.
The tradition in Bannister will live on despite the aging population of the organizers. The hall published a cookbook dedicated to future generations during the 100th anniversary celebration in 2011, so they will not forget the recipes of their ancestors.
We always eat the main meal at the ZCBJ fraternity hall either inside or on the large porch. That brings me to the staple of the festival which is Czech food. The women of the hall prepare traditional Czech fare that is dumplings, sauerkraut, fresh cucumber salad, ham and chicken. The dessert is either apple strudel or rolls filled with nuts.
Of course no Czech festival would be complete without beer.
Most of the participants have never been to Czech or Slovak republics. I admire the zeal that has lasted, thanks to the ZCBJ lodge, for more than 100 years.
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