For the first time in program history, Oklahoma’s Czech-Slovak royalty will serve two terms.
For more than 50 years, the Oklahoma Czech Royalty Pageant has been a fixture of Yukon’s Czech Fest, celebrating area youth as they honored their Czech-Slovak heritage.
“When our 2019-2020 Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty were being crowned, no one could have foreseen the curveball 2020 would throw. After their coronation, these eager royals went straight to work covering at least 13 different events in the first four months of their reign,” said Debbie Kessler, Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty director. “These events were local to both Yukon and the metro area but also included events around our state and even out of state. Then corona threw on the brakes.”
Each year, a queen, junior queen, prince and princess are crowned during the pageant, which includes off- and on-stage interviews, along with the modeling of kroj, a traditional Czech-Slovak-style of clothing.
“I really hated to see their reign snuffed out by this pandemic,” Kessler said. “So, when the Oklahoma Czechs made the tough decision to cancel this year’s festival, we invited the royals to continue their reign through 2021. I was so pleased as each one quickly responded to accept.”
Czech-Slovak royalty for 2020 are queen Emily Cole, daughter of Phil and Amy Cole; junior queen Kinzey Shirazi, daughter of Jason and Lyndsey Shirazi; prince Connor Imhoff, son of Chad and Katrina Imhoff; and princess Lola Mae Yanda, daughter of Anton and Kimberly Yanda.
“Although I am sad to not be dancing under the big white tent this year for the annual Oklahoma Czech Festival, I am excited that we are carrying on as many of the traditions we can during a worldwide pandemic,” Cole said.
“This year has been such a whirlwind for everyone, and the Oklahoma Czech-Slovak royalty is no exception. I never imagined a year ago that I would have the honor of serving as Miss Czech-Slovak Oklahoma for a second year.
“Despite the less than perfect circumstances, our Czech-Slovak community here in Oklahoma has done our very best to adapt and overcome, which I think is absolutely amazing.”
Shirazi echoed Cole’s sentiment.
“I had a great time with my court going to parades and making appearances prior to COVID-19, but unfortunately the only time I’ve seen them since March is on facetime calls,” Shirazi said. “Although it’s not ideal, I feel lucky we’ve been able to stay in each other’s lives despite not getting to see one another.”
In April, Czech Fest organizers opted to cancel the event, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. According to Oklahoma Czech Inc. President Marjorie Jezek, this is the first time in the organization’s history that Czech Fest has been canceled.
“I thought my short reign as prince was over, practically before it had even begun,” Imhoff said. “However, I was very excited and honored to be asked to reign an additional year as Oklahoma Czech-Slovak prince, and I am looking forward to continuing to do all I can to represent my heritage and keep the Czech and Slovak communities alive and involved.”
“COVID-19 has really changed our plans for 2020, but we are hopeful that 2021 will bring change and health to our communities so we can resume the festivals and parades,” Yanda said. “This pandemic has far-reaching consequences but as royalty, I feel a deep obligation to my community to help and protect the vulnerable.”
While Czech Fest does not typically take place until the first Saturday in October, Jezek said the cancellation was announced in April so vendors could potentially make other plans.
REFER: Although Czech Fest is canceled, other events are planned. See Page 2A for details