The National Polka Festival (NPF) in Ennis, Texas has been in existence for as long as I have, 45 years. This has always made the event seem even more special to me and has been one of the many reasons I have tried so hard to return to the festival of the celebration of my heritage every year. Slowly, over time, the many reasons for making the trek back to Dallas have dwindled down to just a handful. I still love the music of my childhood and don’t think I will ever tire of dancing and singing the Czech tunes.
This year, the visit to Dallas was different in a lot of ways. For the first time, I took a good look at the reasons for visiting this particular festival. When I was growing up, we went to the NPF to visit with family and friends. As any good Czech, Catholic family would be, my extended family was (is) huge. I can remember many cousins, god-parents, grand-parents, aunts and uncles, all visiting and enjoying the atmosphere that felt so familiar complete with the food, beer, music, and dancing. As time has gone by, many of the cousins have moved on. Some of my grand-parents have passed away and some of them don’t care to come anymore. My mother, the 100% Czech part of the family, has passed on and my God-mother, who was always the anchor of the dancing part of my family had a stroke a few years back and is in a home, not doing well, from what I’ve been told.
This year, the festival was fun, as it always is. However, that is the interesting thing, this year, Scott and I realized that the NPF is always the same. We always arrive the same day, go to the same venues, see the same art vendors downtown and the same bands in the halls. The parade never changes and the menu at the dance-halls, although contains some authentic Czech fare, has not changed in at least 10 years. Seriously, the menu consists of Barbeque Beef & Klobase, Parsley Potatoes, Green Beans (not sure what is Czech about that), Sauerkraut (German?), and Czech Pastries (Kolaches). If you stay until Sunday, you get Pork Roast and Dumplings (Knedliky). The tunes played are now 50% Czech and 50% Country and Western. The one new thing the festival did this year was bring in a magician, yes, that is right, a magician, to entertain. I think it was this last development that actually sealed our decision (see below). Although we had a good time, we will not be attending the NPF for several years to come. Perhaps absence will make the heart grow fonder.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am actually impressed and pleased that the folks in Ennis can still keep a folk festival alive in today’s culture and society. I know it is insanely difficult to reach the younger generation and I applaud them for trying to do things each year that will draw the younger crowd. See this post for more information on how the NPF folks could better reach the younger crowd. The beef I have with the management of this festival is that the young are being reached at the expense of the purity of the culture. My question is this: WHAT IS CZECH ABOUT A MAGICIAN??
My reasons for taking my money and time elsewhere are not only due to the festival changing, but due to out growing this festival and a desire to see how other Czechs hold their festivals in other parts of this country and beyond. Therefore, next year we will be heading for the Wilber Czech Festival in Wilber, Nebraska. In an effort to start a new tradition with the younger folks in our family and to try to carry on the Czech heritage, we have asked our kids and grand-kids to join us in Wilber, as well as my parents. All have agreed to wear costumes for the event. I will be making those and posting progress photos throughout the next year on this blog. It is nice to be excited again about attending a Czech festival. I am sure the festival in Wilber has many of the same issues, namely, familiarity to those who attend every year, but it will be new to us and we are looking forward to it.
Finally, I leave you with photos from this year’s festival. I do have a video of Scott and I dancing, but am working out a deal for cash to keep it from being posted. HaHa! As I said, we did have a good time, but also a reflective one. Enjoy ~ až později
The trip to the festival:
The King and Queen Competition:
Czech Musicians (one of these is my cousin:
Random photos of fun: