Caitlin Orsak, Miss Texas Czech Slovak, was named first runner-up in the US contest held this past weekend in Wilber, Nebraska. Jennifer Salva of Kansas was crowned queen and Allie Knouse of Nebraska was second runner-up. Caitlin says it was one of the best experiences of her life!
"All of the girls I competed against were so sweet and so involved in their heritage! We were all so proud to represent our states at the national competition," Caitlin reports. "I cannot wait to travel more and spread my love of Czech culture on a broader scale. The pageant went smoothly thanks to MaryElizabeth Lackey and the Wilber Hotel where we stayed was lovely. We were in two parades and went to St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church. We also visited the residents in the nursing home and met the Czech Ambassador. The food was great! Nebraska knows how to throw a Czech Festival. Almost as good as us Texans ;)."
If they selected Miss Czech-Slovak US based only on smiles, then Caitlin from Shiner would have won hands down. Her smile just lights up the room. But the US pageant goes for more than looks. The girls were judged on personal interviews with the judges, an on-stage interview and question related to their desires to celebrate and preserve their heritage, kroj modeling and a talent competition. Jennifer Salva won numerous prizes, including a free trip to the Czech Republic. In looking at pageant history since 1987, there have been two Miss Czech-Slovak US queens from Texas--Angela Young of Houston in 1993 and Sarah Middlebrook of West in 2006. We have had second runner-up once and two first runners up, including Melanie Zavodny in 1995. Melanie is the director of communications for SPJST in Temple and the editor of Vestnik. Meet the 2012-13 court.
I met Caitlin at the Kolache Festival in East Bernard. I'm proud to know that she is Czech and has such a bright future ahead of her. Polkabeat fans congratulate her on representing Texas so well. Now, let's find out a little more about her.
Why did you participate in the Miss Texas Czech Slovak contest? I was really interested in the Czech pageant and loved the idea of being able to help spread Czech heritage all over Texas.
Where did you get the kroj? My aunt and I made the kroj. It was a great experience for both of us and we are thinking about making another one.
What did you do for the talent portion of the contest? I sang the Immigrants’ Waltz. It is a song written by Daniel Klapuk and sung by the Dujka Brothers that tells of the journey from Europe to America.
What are your duties as MTCS? I attend many parades, festivals, polka dances, and celebrations throughout Texas and spread awareness of Cezh heritage. I have also given a few presentations on Czech heritage to different groups ranging from elementary children to adults.
Are you in school? If so, what are you majoring in? In August I will be attending Texas A&M University and majoring in Agribusiness. I’m not totally decided yet what I'll do after graduation. There’s a few options I’m looking into. But one day I would really like to own my own business and get into marketing.
Tell me about your family. All polka lovers? Yes. My family is full of polka lovers. Everyone from aunts and uncles to cousins, to my grandparents attend many polka dances and listen to polka music daily. It is something I have grown up with and some of my favorite songs are polka music. (She is also the niece of Mark Hermes of the Czechaholics Polka Band and plays the flute.)
What's your favorite polka? Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie. It has been my favorite since I was little and I got to sing it with my Little Sister, Kenna Kubenka, and the Czechaholics at the Queen’s Dance in West after the Miss Texas Pageant.
Which polka CD/mp3 songs have you been listening to lately? Immigrants’ Waltz, Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, A Ja Sam, Moon Over Moravia, In Heaven There is No Beer, Pretty Dancing Girl, Beer Barrel Polka, Red Rose Polka, Shiner Polka...
Do you go to polka dances often? I go to polka dances as much as I go to country dances. I love to dance to polkas and waltzes; they are a lot of fun and I love the music.
What do you think would help attract more young people to attend polka dances? Many young people like polka music and will dance to it but they prefer country. A polka dance with only polka music isn’t enough. If you incorporated some country songs every now and then more young dancers would come. Whenever there is a dance with a country band and a polka band playing there are more young people, and they will dance to both the country and the polkas.
Polka on Caitlin!