Tag Archives: Bannister

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 www.zcbjbannister.org 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 http://www.wflains.org

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

Czech Harvest Festival “Dozinky”

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.

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.

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.

Copyright © 2015 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Czech traditions in the US

Czech traditions continue in the US

By EMMA PALOVA

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 : http://www.czechevents.net/events

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

Czechs in Bannister, Michigan

Czech tradition lives on in new country

I went to a traditional Czech costumed wedding called “veselka” approximately 30 years ago. It was in a castle in the small town of Holesov. The bride Miroslava was 17 and the groom was 27. His name was Vojtech and he was from the region where these customs originate right on the border of Moravia and Slovakia.

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.

By Czech standards it was a huge wedding of close to 100 people. They had a classic polka band with accordions and trumpets. The acoustics in the castle were amazing.
The men wore hats called “burinka,” embroidered vests with ribbons on them. The women had festive costumes and small caps on their heads. After years I finally remembered the significance of the cap as opposed to a wreath from fresh flowers on younger women. The cap signifies that a woman is married, while the women with fresh flowers are single.
Many years later, as I watched the dancers in Bannister this past Sunday, listened to the accordions, enjoyed Czech food, and checked out the old paintings in ZCBJ Lodge in the middle of nowhere, I admired the people behind this event. Most of them have never been in 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 they have recreated, preserved and continue to carry on to next generations is more than triumphant. 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 will always prevail.

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.

Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova

Preserving Czech traditions in United States

One of the best kept Czech secrets hides approximately 20 miles east of highway 127 amidst grain, corn fields and sugar beets in Central Michigan. Small farm houses sit on the flat farming land tucked away from the roads. The only noise is the wind whistling through the fields.

But, every year on the first Sunday of August, the small unincorporated village of Bannister, comes alive with polka music and traditional folk dances. The men and women put on traditional folk costumes and celebrate the Harvest Festival, in Czech known as Dozinky.

Most of the 100 people who live in Bannister are of Czech origin, and they have been looking forward to the celebration all year long.

Tom Bradley, dance troop leader, proudly polishes up his Russian dance shoes.

“A dancer is only good as his shoes,” he laughed.

Czech folk dances during the Harvest Festival in Bannister.
Czech folk dances during the Harvest Festival in Bannister.

Tom Bradley and his wife Dianne are at the head of preserving the century-old tradition of celebrating the wheat harvest with Dozinky. Dianne leads the kids in dancing to the music of accordionist Linda Quarderer.

The day starts with a polka mass at St. Cyril’s Catholic Church. The musicians just like the dancers wear authentic custom made costumes rich with embroidered ribbons. The church is decorated with Czech dolls in folk costumes and with harvest wreaths.

The hymns are arranged to polka music. The first time I heard the Czech hymns here deep in the Midwest fields, I had tears in my eyes. I realized what this small group of people, who has been far away from home for more than a century, was doing.

Yes, they were preserving something that is dying out back in the old country. Similar harvest celebrations in Czech Republic can be found only in tiny villages on the border of Moravia and Slovakia.

The center of all happenings is the ZCBJ Lodge, home of the Western Bohemian Fraternity. It is also the only building on Main Street that stands out. It has united the Czech immigrants for more than 100 years.

Right after the mass, the traditional Czech dinner is served both inside and outside the hall from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The food consists of ham and chicken, dumplings, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and gravy, and for dessert either kolache or poppy seed and apple turnovers.

Czech festive fair, pork roast, sauerkraut, dumplings & golden lager.
Czech festive fare, pork roast, sauerkraut, dumplings & golden lager.

I was amazed how authentically the ladies of the hall recreated a traditional Czech meal. Most of them have never set foot in the old country. But, the recipes have been handed down from generation to generation, much like the dance, and the music. The only thing that didn’t make it throughout the decades was the language.

The parade gathers in front of the ZCBJ hall, and it is led by both flag bearers and wreath bearers. The giant wreath has been made from wheat stalks and wild flowers. Other participants in the parade carry the ancient tools of wheat harvest, a scythe and a rake, adorned with ribbons.

The parade stops at the podium created from a decorated wagon with all three flags; Czech, USA and Slovak. Then the choir leader starts to sing the Czech & Slovak hymn;

“Kde domov muj, kde domov muj.

Voda huci po lucinach, bory sumi po skalinach………”

Translated it means:

“Where is my home, where is my home,

Water roars over the meadows, forests murmur over the rocks..”

Czech cookbook and Czech jewelry sold at the festival.
Czech cookbook and Czech jewelry sold at the festival.

The dancers range from two years of age to more than 60. They perform traditional folk dances in couples or in a circle around the maypole. They could make any true Czech turn green with envy. Czech songs accompany the performance.

In the heat of more than 90 fahrenheit, the women sport black stockings, several support skirts under the main one, fluffy three-quarter length sleeves, lace caps, and men and boys wear black hats and vests over fluffy shirts and baggy pants.

After the official performance, a polka band plays for the public to dance inside the hall. The hall itself is decorated with paintings of old Czech leaders like Jan Zizka and others.

The event this year will be held on Aug.4. The cost for the dinner is $10. Come early, it sells out. For info about the ZCBJ Lodge activities go to http://zcbjbannister.org/events_calendar html

Follow the blog for a video from the festival.

Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova