While many area residents were out enjoying the last day of the county fair, a heritage celebration was underway up north in Wilson. The annual After Harvest Czech Festival offers a wide range of activities sure to appeal to everyone, whether you have Czech heritage or not. The two-day celebration, like the Pratt County Fair, […]

While many area residents were out enjoying the last day of the county fair, a heritage celebration was underway up north in Wilson.
The annual After Harvest Czech Festival offers a wide range of activities sure to appeal to everyone, whether you have Czech heritage or not.
The two-day celebration, like the Pratt County Fair, concluded last Saturday.
The 2019 version of the festival had a theme of family, friends, and cheers and featured special guests the Prague Folk Dancers, who hail from the small town of the same name in Oklahoma. The dancers performed five times over the course of the two-day festival, and it was the first time the group had done so outside of the Sooner State.
Our festival began early Saturday morning with the Czech Walk/Run, where we completed a two mile walk and added one more to our collection of T-shirts from the event.
For most visitors, the festival begins with the parade, which this year featured a welcome from Wilson mayor, Larry Ptacek (a distant relative of mine) and greetings from Sharon Valasek, honorary counsel to the Czech Republic out of the Kansas City area. Also, two local residents sung and played, on guitar, the national anthem of the Czech Republic, 'Where is my home?' in both Czech and English.
If you have a hankering for traditional food, there are two options available, including a Czech meal at the Senior Center on Friday night and the traditional Czech food buffet at St. Wenceslaus Parish Hall, which we never miss. The dumplings, over which you may pour dill gravy, are always a highlight for me. Those Catholic ladies really know how to cook them. Of course, there are many other options for meals across Wilson.
You may want to visit the Wilson Heritage Museum, which just opened last year after the former museum, located in the opera house, burnt down in 2009. This year the museum featured a very interesting traveling exhibit from the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library entitled 'Leaving Czechoslovakia.'
Our festival experience typically ends with the Miss Kansas Czech-Slovak Queen Pageant, which emphasizes the Czech or Slovak heritage of the contestants. If you have the time, you may want to stay for the polka mass or opt for polka music played throughout the day and nightly.
This year, we added a trip into nearby Lincoln County. I recently discovered a plat map which showed the locations of three 160-acres sections of land owned by Frank Felcman in the far southwest corner of Lincoln County. Frank was my great-grandfather's uncle, and it was on this land that my great-grandfather, Josef Vondracek, lived for about 8 years after he had immigrated to America from Bohemia, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. We found that land and also made contact with a longtime resident of the area, Paul Winckler, who today owns some of that same Felcman land.
So, if your harvest is all done, and you want to have a little fun and perhaps also explore your Czech heritage, then check out the Wilson After Harvest Czech Festival on July 24-25, 2020.
Next year will mark 60 years of the festival's existence.