Category Archives: dance

Czech Harvest Festival

Summer  brings  heritage festivals and fairs

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI  -I am really looking forward to this weekend. First of all, it’s going to be hot again, and I love that.

Contrary to what the promoters of “Back to School” pump out, summer is not over. For me summer is over when I have to swap my flip-flops for closed-toed shoes, usually with the first snow.

Summer always stays in my heart year-long.

Other than my author event at the LowellArts gallery tomorrow from 1 to 3 p.m. during the Captured photo exhibit, I can’t wait to go to the Czech Harvest Festival “Dozinky” in Bannister this Sunday.

This is our annual treat and a tribute to our Czech heritage. Every year, I get my hopes high that I will run into a Czech-speaking person at the festival in the middle of nowhere.

Over the years of going to Bannister, I’ve met probably a total of eight people who knew some Czech. The fun part about this event is that I get to sing three anthems that I know: American, Czech & Slovak.

The third-generation organizers Tom & Diane Bradley of Czech origin have done a fantastic job of preserving the “Dozinky” event as it truly happens in the Moravian and Slovakian villages in the old country. The dancers wear original costumes, the band of accordions plays Czech polka and the singers sing Czech songs.

I marvel at this effort, because the festival passes the Czech heritage onto the younger generation. The dance troupe involves kids ages three to unlimited. The festivities open with the shortest parade in the world; it’s even shorter than the parade in Hubbardston on St. Pat’s Day.

The parade route is past the ZCBJ Lodge to the small field with a concrete platform for the dancers. The dancers and singers march in the parade with rakes and scythes, symbolizing the original harvest of wheat.

Usually, a polka band plays inside the hall after the dance troupe is done outside. I’ve never been to that part, because it runs later in the afternoon when we have to head back home for a long drive through the fields.

The best part of the event is the original Czech food. For ten bucks, you get to eat like in a fancy Czech restaurant without leaving USA. The buffet features, ham, chicken, dumplings, sauerkraut, cucumber salad, mashed potatoes, biscuits and a dessert.

Czech “kolache”

However, one thing you will not get here, is the traditional Czech “kolache” pastry. One of the editors of the Fraternity Herald asked me to share the origins of this festive pastry.

So, I asked my mother Ella, while she was still in Venice. Growing up in Moravian small town of Vizovice, she could trace the humble origins to the villagers.

“They used all the ingredients available to them in their households,” she said. “This included the cottage cheese they made themselves, butter or lard and eggs. The only thing they bought was sugar and flour. They had everything else including the plum butter.”

The popularity of “kolache” as a signature pastry at all events and festivities, skyrocketed over the years, as the city folks discovered them while touring villages.

“Kolaches” are to Czechs what pizza is to the Italians,” mom said. “They too use the ingredients available to them; olives, pasta sauce and such.”

There are hundreds of recipes for traditional “kolache” varying according to the region.

However, they all have in common the following: golden crust topped with plum butter with sugary crumbling and filled with cottage cheese mixed with raisins.

For one of the many kolache recipes visit the

Mazac Family Genealogy blog:

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.


Czechoslovak Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival celebrates Czech traditions

By Emma Palova

Bannister, MI- No matter how long I’ve lived in North America, I still sometimes miss my home country, the Czech Republic.

It’s hard to pin point what exactly am I missing? My whole family, except for daughter Emma Chavent, lives here in Michigan. Although, we don’t have family reunions, we often visit with each other. We all speak the Czech language including our youngest granddaughter Josephine Marie Palova. She was born in Kalamazoo in 2013 to American mother and to son Jake.

Czechoslovak Harvest Festival.
The Czech & Slovak dance group.

So, it isn’t just the language that I miss. Sometimes, I think it’s the food. But, that can’t be right, both my husband Ludek and I can cook any Czech meal. We usually cook Czech food on Sundays.

The perfect Czech Sunday meal are either schnitzels or pork, cabbage and dumplings.

Every August, we go to the Czechoslovak Harvest Festival held in Bannister, MI.  ZCBJ Lodge #225 in Bannister organizes the annual event.

We do this to remind ourselves, our kids and grandchildren of our Czech origins. French-born Ella Chavent enjoyed the festival for the first time. She has never seen the traditional Czech and Slovak festive costumes or the dances.

Czech festival in Bannister.
Czechoslovak Harvest Festival.

Ella marveled both at the dances and the music. She loved the full Czech fare that consisted of ham, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, dumplings, cabbage, cucumber salad and Czech desserts.

As in most countries, the food and the desserts are the pride of that particular nation. The ZCBJ Bannister lodge volunteers have cooked the delicious spread since 1976. Although somewhat modified, the food carries the Czech staples of dumplings, cabbage and cucumber salad.

The dance troop celebrated 40th anniversary under the leadership of Diane and Tom Bradley. Another group played the accordions, a common instrument for the Polka music.

Every year, I am flabbergasted by the dedication of the organizers to the Czech culture. Although, they are of Czech origin, most of them have never visited Czech or Slovak republics. Their meticulous research has brought them closer to the country located in the heart of Europe, thousands of miles away from the American shore.

Czech & Slovak dancers at the Harvest Festival in Bannister.
Czech & Slovak dances at Harvest Festival.

The dedication also shows in the compiled recipes in the Czech anniversary cookbooks. Most recipes are in memory of loved ones.

A Polka brass band accompanies the mass at the Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church. The dance troop also dances polka and other Czech dances.

What makes the Czechoslovak Harvest Festival even more special is the fact that such events are dying out in the old country as the older generation passes on.

“Lodge Michigan #225 has been fortunate to have members who willingly give of themselves, who live not in the past, but rather use the past to build for the future,” the festival program reads.

“Vitejte holka na Dozinky,” Tom Bradley greeted Ella in Czech.

I used to worry about the future of this Czech event that annually takes place in the middle nowhere, not close to Lansing and not close to Grand Rapids.

Since yesterday, I don’t worry anymore. I saw young blood everywhere; from the dancers to the accordion players. Among the visitors were a lot of young people, who probably have never seen anything like the traditional costumed dances.

The event closes with a dance for the public inside the ZCBJ Lodge. The lodge itself is a feast for the eyes. It has a traditional stage for the Polka band. Paintings from Czech history decorate the walls of the 1916 hall.

Thanks to all the volunteers for keeping the Czech tradition in Midwest alive.

The next Czechoslovak Harvest Festival in Bannister will be held on Aug. 6th, 2017.

For more information visit or find them on Facebook.

You can also rent the hall for events. Contact Ann VanDeusen at 1-(989) 534-1862.

To join the Western Fraternal Life go to

Copyright (c) 2016 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

May Day in Czech Republic

May Day brings romance & opens beer gardens

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

May Day is not only known for the International Worker’s Day to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in Chicago, but it is also a Northern Hemisphere spring festival.

It was an official holiday in former Czechoslovakia, complete with parades. But, most importantly, it was and it is a celebration of spring called Majales accompanied by the opening of the beer gardens. Majales are dances around May poles decorated with ribbons.

May Day pole tied with ribbons signifies love and spring.
May Day pole tied with ribbons signifies love and spring.

The first day of May is known as the day of love immortalized by many artists, poets and writers. It was mainly the work of Czech poet Karel Hynek Macha who attached love to this day and the entire month with his poem May.

Karel Hynek Macha, Czech poet
Karel Hynek Macha, Czech poet

Here are the first few verses from the poem translated by Edith Pargeter:

Late evening, on the first of May—
The twilit May—the time of love.
Meltingly called the turtle-dove,
Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay.
Whispered of love the mosses frail,
The flowering tree as sweetly lied,
The rose’s fragrant sigh replied
To love-songs of the nightingale.
In shadowy woods the burnished lake
Darkly complained a secret pain,
By circling shores embraced again;
And heaven’s clear sun leaned down to take
A road astray in azure deeps,
Like burning tears the lover weeps.

A haze of stars in heaven hovers—
That church of endless love’s communion—
Each jewel blanches and recovers
As blanch and burn long-parted lovers
In the high rapture of reunion.
How clear, to her full beauty grown,
How pale, how clear, the moon above,
Like maiden seeking for her love,
A rosy halo round her thrown!
Her mirrored image she espied,
And of self-love, beholding, died.
Forth from the farms pale shadows strayed,
Lengthening longing to their kind,
Till they embraced, and close entwined,
Coiled low into the lap of shade,
Grown all one twilight unity.
Tree in the shadows writhes to tree.
In the far mountains’ dark confine
Pine leans to birch and birch to pine.
Wave baunting wave the streamlets move.
For love’s sake—in the time of love—
Anguished goes every living thing.

The poem takes place  by Doksy and the castles of Bezdez, Pernstejn, Holska and Ralsko point toward east and west, noon and midnight.

Castle Pernstejn the setting for the poem May.
Castle Pernstejn the setting for the poem May.

Czech parks and castles invite to romance many designed in classical English style with strict hedges and groves.


A castle park in Vizovice where a big part of my book takes place.
A castle park in Vizovice where a big part of my book takes place.





Typical flowers for May are lilacs. Some have grown into trees and have been cross-bred into different colors. Some Czech customs have carried over to the USA. In the photo below, Americans of Czech heritage are dancing around a May pole easily recognized by the ribbons.

May Day pole with ribbons in Bannister, Michigan
May Day pole with ribbons in Bannister, Michigan







Copyright (c) 2015 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.



International wedding

International wedding brings huge success, creates memories


EW Emma’s Writings

Wabasis Lake Park, MI- On a beautiful last Saturday in October, Jake Pala and Maranda Ruegsegger became husband and wife.

They got married in the historical Saint Patrick Church in Parnell, Michigan. As the sun rays passed through the colored windows, the sun beams spread all over the altar, the floor, on reverend Mark Peacock and the bride and the groom. Peacock in the homily talked about love, relationships and the importance of wholesome families.

“That is a beautiful church, I was married there,” wrote Jeana Schwacha on facebook. “It looks like it hasn’t changed much.”

Mr. Pala and Mrs. Palova at Saint Patrick Church in Parnell
Mr. Pala and Mrs. Palova at Saint Patrick Church in Parnell

Anthony Amelia, brother of the bride, read the wedding classic reading on love 1 Corinthians 12 : 31.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs,” resonated through the church.

The bride’s colors were purple, beige and lavender which carried over to corsages, ties and sashes. The bride, the matron of honor Jessica Kraima and the groom’s sister Emma Chavent wore the ever-popular bustier strapless dresses. The bride’s wedding gown had a long train that dropped down several steps from the altar. The best man was Pala’s longtime friend Ken Kline. The French flower girl was Ella Chavent, 4.

It was a picture perfect afternoon with degrees in mid to upper 60s Fahrenheit.

Mr. Jakub Pala and Mrs. Maranda Palova enter the Wabasis Lodge
Mr. Jakub Pala and Mrs. Maranda Palova enter the Wabasis Lodge

Just a few miles northeast of the church, overlooking Wabasis Lake covered with autumn golden carpet, sits the park lodge which was the place for the reception.

The scenery for the wedding featured blue skies and blue waters of the Wabasis Lake. The lodge has a large fireplace and it was decked out for a grand wedding celebration. French doors and windows span the entire northern and southern walls. It seats approximately 130 to 140 people.

“It will be rustic chic,” said the bride Maranda Ruegsegger in a previous interview for E Brides & Fashion blog.

The first dance belonged to Maranda and Jake
The first dance belonged to Maranda and Jake

The tables were decorated with stumps that served as bases for large vases with candles floating in them.

“Grandpa Tom made the stumps for me,” Maranda glowed.

As Mr. Pala and Mrs. Palova entered the lodge, they got a standing ovation from the crowd.

The song “When a man loves a woman” settled into everyone’s heart as the husband and wife danced the first dance. Turning and swirling to the catching melody, the couple danced passionately and skillfully.

The buffet dinner included chicken marsala, roast beef, mashed potatoes, salad and more.

Three-tier wedding cake by CJ Aunt Jarmilka
Three-tier wedding cake by CJ Aunt Jarmilka

“The food was delicious,” I kept hearing comments.

A separate dessert station was set up by the fireplace. Wedding baker Jarmila Karmaskova of CJ Aunt Jarmilka’s Desserts set up the three-tier wedding cake on a stump. The cake was topped off with pine cones in the spirit of the rustic theme.

“The desserts are very good,” said friend Jean Jeltema. “Bring me some of that cake log.”

CJ spent three days baking the wedding cake, cake logs and traditional Czech kolache. Karmaskova baked well into the wee hours of the wedding day.

“I was kind of scared out there,” she confessed later.

She and her two sons George & Paul flew 6,000 miles to get here for the wedding.

The wines featured Fenn Valley’s sweeter Lakeshore white and red Capriccio, French Vouvray chardonnay, Rodney Strong chardonnay and Spanish Sangre de Toro red and Sangria. The bar also offered plum brandy, pear brandy and Becherovka herbal liqueur.

The wedding wines
The wedding wines

“Everybody liked that,” said father of the bride Dan Ruegsegger at the tailgate party on Sunday.

No Czech celebration is complete without beer. Since it is the month of the Octoberfest, the groom ordered Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Ichabad pumpkin ale.

The international selection of wines and brandy reflected the international spirit of the wedding. Mr. Jakub Pala was born in former Czechoslovakia and Mrs. Maranda Palova, born Ruegsegger, is American. The groom’s sister Chavent is Czech, but her husband and children are French.

The difference in the names Pala – Palova lies in the gender and the grammar. All females in Slavic languages after marriage take on the man’s name, but because of the grammar rules, the last name is modified by adding either –ova to the end or –a to the end.

For example the famous Czech tennis player Martina Navratilova, a man would be Martin Navratil or Ivanka Trumpova, the man is Donald Trump.

My parents Ella & Vaclav Konecny stayed the longest on the dance floor celebrating 55 years of marriage.
My parents Ella & Vaclav Konecny stayed the longest on the dance floor celebrating 55 years of marriage.

And my dad Vaclav Konecny fills in the Spanish gap as a big fan of the Spanish language.

During the wedding, my parents Ella & Vaclav Konecny received a blessing for their 55th anniversary and danced the longest on the dance floor. They had the greatest longevity of marriage of all the couples present.

Groom’s sister Emma Chavent made the wedding video accompanied by a great selection of music including Queen. It covered the groom’s childhood all the way to marriage.

The dance floor was busy until the closing. The DJ was accommodating also to requests for slow dancing music.

So Mr. & Mrs. Palova danced the night away under the bright stars.

Welcome Mrs. Palova to the family.

Copyright © 2014 All rights reserved Emma Blogs LLC

Czech traditions in the US

Czech traditions continue in the US


EW Emma’s Writings

Bannister, MI- Always held on the first Sunday in August, the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister is by far the best kept secret around.

I discovered it while writing for the Ionia Sentinel-Standard, I received a press release from an insurance agency in Owosso about 13 years ago.

The one-paragraph press release was simple, but it did entice me to explore the “Dozinky” Harvest Midwest style.

Czech dances in Bannister, MI in traditional costumes custom made in Czech and Slovak republics.
Czech dances in Bannister, MI in traditional costumes custom made in Czech and Slovak republics.

“Come and sample traditional Czech fare of dumplings, pork and sauerkraut. Dance the afternoon away with polka. Watch the dancers in their colorful costumes,” the press release read.

Since then, we’ve been going to the festival at least every two years.

Following is a video interview by Brianna Prochaska with some of the younger participants of the “Dozinky” Harvest Festivals held all over the USA.

My personal favorite is the accordion music by mostly local people. As the old Czech saying goes, “There is a musician in all Czechs.”

What amazes me is that the language is the hardest to keep alive for  more than 100 years of Czech immigration to the US.  Most festival organizers and women chefs do not speak Czech. But other than that, a small group of people has preserved everything from costumes, dances, music to food.

The universal word here in Bannister is “kolacki.” Kolacki are traditional Czech, Slovak, and Lithuanian pastries filled with cottage cheese and raisins topped with plum butter. Kolacki are a festive dessert used at celebrations such as weddings.

Festive kolacki
Festive kolacki


The food is a complete Czech feast consisting of dumplings, sauerkraut, pork, ham and chicken. The ham and breaded chicken are American changes. But the cucumber salad with sour cream is as Czech as it gets.

Traditional Czech fare of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings
Traditional Czech fare of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings

And as I watch the dancers in Bannister every year or so, listen to the accordions, enjoy Czech food, and check out the old paintings in ZCBJ Lodge in the middle of nowhere, I admire the people behind this event. Most of them have never been to Czech Republic let alone at a classic “veselka.”

The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.
The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.

What the Dozinky organizers  have recreated, preserved and continue to pass on to next generations is almost a miracle. I can safely say that most people in the old country don’t know how to dance polka, czardas, or mazurka. The Czech Harvest in Bannister is a testimony that human spirit and determination will always prevail.

The lead dancers are Tom and Diane Bradley. Diane also teaches the youngest troop of dancers.

One of all time favorites for the little ones is the song, “Mela babka ctyri jabka a dedousek jen dve,” or in English: Grandma had four apples, while grandpa had only two. “Give me an apple, grandma, and we’ll be equal.”

According to  the chairman of the festival Tom Bradley’s “Pamatnik” published for the 100th anniversary of the ZCBJ Lodge in 2011,the Czechs and Slovaks immigrated to Central Michigan around 1904 from Chicago and Cleveland. They were recruited to work the sugar beet fields. Eventually they worked on their own farms. And the recruiters had to look for different workers from big cities.

The Dozinky Harvest Festival will be held on Aug. 3, 2014 with dinner served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $10 for adults and $3 for children. Get in early, the food does run out.

Authentic gifts such as garnet jewelry and Czech cookbooks are also available.

The program begins at 2:30 p.m. with Bill Nemanis. The dance starts at 4 p.m. at ZCBJ Lodge.

The dinner is preceded by a mass with polka arrangements at the Chuch of Cyril and Methodej.

For more information go to :

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova, video by Brianna Prochaska