Listen in today at 2:30 p.m. to radio WOES-FM 91.3- Ovid-Elsie Community radio- home of the polka palace.
Tom Bradley, one of the co-founders of the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister, will be talking about the “Dozinky” festival. The festival always held on the first Sunday in August was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We could not take the risk,” said co-founder Diane Bradley.
The festival takes place at the ZCBJ Lodge in Bannister. in Cenral Michigan. It features a parade, costumed dancers, a festive dinner consisting of ham, chicken, dumplings, saurkraut, cucumber salad, mashed potatoes and traditional Czech desserts. The dinner is followed by a dance.
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.
The Czech & Slovak dance group.
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.
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.
It was a foggy morning walk on the gravel road to the Sisters as August made its grand entrance on the summer scene this week.
After days of drought, the rain was forecasted at 70 percent last night. Ella called the weatherman, a douche bag. That was very appropriate, since “douche” in French means shower.
On Tuesday, I went to the Paulson’s pumpkin patch farmer’s market north of our ranch. I bought our favorites, peaches and plums for the classical Czech summer fruit dumplings dish topped with cottage cheese.
I had to pass on the first harvest of cucumbers, since we will not have the time to can them this year. But we do have a good stock of last year’s sweet and sour pickles to get us through the winter.
Purple blue plums are also the main ingredient in plum brandy, known as “slivovice.” I call plum brandy, the Moravian gold.
It looks like an abundant harvest this year.
The Paulson’s farmer’s stand overlooks the vast fields of vegetables, fruits and orchards that were wilting in the heat, along with some marigolds by the fence.
“Did you do the rain dance?” asked me the owner sitting comfortably in an orange folding chair behind the counter loaded with fresh produce.
Among the novelties at the stand were sweet jalapenos. I have yet to try them. But, I did buy yellow cauliflower and red lettuce for different color varietals.
“No, should I?” I asked.
“You should do it every morning,” he said.
Then, I remembered while watering the patio garden, I did run a stream of water on my brand new mysterious “rain chain” and on the tin sunflower, causing it to whirl.
And it finally rained, this morning after I dropped off Ella at the summer school. I went to my favorite hideout, and it poured on the lake. I watched the rain swirl and twirl on the windshield.
But, before that, being totally stripped of any energy, I ate the entire Chocolove xoxox Almonds & Sea Salt dark chocolate bar. It tasted like heaven, after weeks of starving myself for the book signings.
To my great delight, I discovered inside the chocolate wrap a poem by Alexander Pushkin:
Thou and You
She substituted, by a chance,
For empty ‘you’- the gentle ‘thou.’
And all my happy dreams, at once,
In loving heart again resound.
In bliss and silence do I stay,
Unable to maintain my role:
‘Oh, how sweet you are!’ I say-
‘How I love thee!’ says my soul.
It’s going to be a great August.
I am looking forward to the Czech Harvest Festival this Sunday in Bannister. Watch for post.
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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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.