By Lori Najvar, Polkaworks
Texas Czech folk music is a major part of the entertainment for special occasions where dancers and listeners gather at historic and fraternal organizations’ halls throughout the year. But where can you also enjoy a delicious meal, play old-fashioned festival activities, attend an auction, and support unique rural churches in areas that were once the settlements of Czech immigrants? Church picnics, of course, and the majority of them take place in the months of May through October.
Picnics are family-oriented and often take place in a beautiful landscape.
At one time, church picnics were more of a potluck event for the first- to third-generation settlers. Today, hundreds of volunteers join together and prepare traditional food for several thousands of people. Businesses and parishioners donate attractive items for the auction, along with baked and canned goods for the cake walk and country store.
Along with the tasty meal, you have the opportunity to dance and hear polka bands throughout the day. With multi-generations of locals and friends that might have moved away or share a common heritage, you can dance and sing Czech folk songs that have been performed for decades. Often, band members from different groups jam on stage with the featured band. And so often, grandparents teach grandchildren to polka and waltz.
By attending the church picnics, you are participating in the ongoing communal and celebratory occasions rooted in Texas Czech traditions that helped build the strong agrarian communities continuing to support these churches.
PolkaWorks highlights unique cultural traditions through documentaries, photography and public programs designed to educate and inspire. The latest exhibit, Texas Czechs: Rooted in Tradition, can be viewed at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, now through Sept. 4.