It hardly seems possible but it won’t be long until downtown Yukon will be alive with all things Czech during the annual Oklahoma Czech Festival that rolls around the first Saturday in October.
Volunteers are already busy with the arduous task of baking thousands of kolaches, a delectable Czech pastry that are the culinary favorite of those who attend the festival, this year celebrated on Oct. 1.
It will be the 51st annual event that draws thousands to downtown Yukon, many of them craving the kolaches that are prepared in July and put in deep freeze (13 degrees) until the day before the festival.
This year the kolache-making crowd will prepare in the neighborhood of 2,500-dozen kolaches (around 30,000) that, if history is prevails, will be sold out early on in the day’s celebration.
Kolache’s will come in 13 flavors, according to Oklahoma Czechs President Marjorie Jezek, who serves as director of the Yukon festival. Those include: Raspberry, lemon, peach, apple, cherry, cottage cheese, apricot, poppy seed, cream cheese, pineapple, blueberry, prune and coconut cream.
“They stay in the freezer until the Friday before Czech Day,” Jezek said. “We’ll bring them out at noon that day and wipe them down and get them ready for the next morning.”
Many who buy them at the festival take them home and re-freeze them, Jezek said, and then put them in their microwave to warm them up.
A little bit of history:
Kolaches have been a crowd favorite since the first Oklahoma Czech Festival in 1966. At that time, they were made in people’s homes since there was no central facility available to make them in the huge volumes that were needed. The Czech Building, at 5th and Cedar, was built in 1976 and volunteers use the facility this time of year to prepare kolaches for the October festival.
Hailing from the Eastern European nation of Czechoslovakia (now known as the Czech Republic), the fruit-filled pastry originated as a semi-sweet or savory dessert served at weddings and dates as far back as the 1700’s. The dessert name is derived from the Old Slavic language word “kolo” meaning circle or wheel. Designed to hold a dollop of fruit or other filling, the pastry is light and flavorful and evolved from a wedding favorite into a snack to be enjoyed anytime.