Prince George County VA celebrates its Czech-Slovak heritage at annual festival October 20
Prince George County, VA – The sights, sounds and aromas of Czech and Slovak lifestyles will permeate Prince George County, Virginia, on October 20, 2018. Local residents will celebrate the seventh annual Czech & Slovak Folk Festival from 11 am to 4 pm on the lawn at the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center, 6406 Courthouse Road.
The festival celebrates the Czech & Slovak families who came to this region in the late 1800s and settled on farmland abandoned after the Civil War. About 3,000 people attended the festival last year.
“These immigrants were very important to the overall lifestyle here. They were independent farmers, who restored the land to cultivation. And they brought with them a rich culture,” said Carol Marks Bowman, executive director of the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center. “When they first came, they established their own community with churches, businesses, banks, schools and even their own baseball teams. Then they began to assimilate. Now, 131 years after the arrival of the first Czech immigrant, they celebrate their history and culture.”
Attendees at the festival can enjoy good fun and fellowship, authentic Czech/Slovak food, including cabbage rolls, pork, sauerkraut and dumplings. They can shop at the bakery tables which sell traditional Kolaches and other Czech pastries; hear music by the Chesterfield Community Band; listen to choral music by the Czech Singers; dance the polka; see traditional crafts; play games on the lawn, and inspect the ever-popular farm life displays.
Also, attendees will be able to visit the Czech and Slovak Immigration Gallery inside the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center. Debuting in 2015, the gallery features floor-to-ceiling panels with images donated by local residents that bring the immigrants’ story to life. The gallery includes traditional Czech-Slovak costumes, musical and art objects and a special exhibit from the National Czech & Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Last year, a tablet with the names of the original Czech and Slovak families was added to the exhibit.
WHY THE CZECHS AND SLOVAKS CAME HERE
Much of the history of the Czech & Slovak families who came to Prince George County was researched and documented by Bruce Vlk of the University of Virginia. Vlk helped start the Virginia Czech & Slovak Folk Festival with seed money from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, followed by additional funding from the Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Cabell Foundation. Vlk worked with two ladies, Marie Blaha Pearson and Joyce Pritchard, both descendants of the original Czech immigrants, who collected documents and photographs from the local families.
Vlk wrote in a paper titled “New Bohemia in the New World: Czechoslovak Immigration and Assimilation in Prince George County, Virginia”:
“In 1848, revolution across Europe stirred political and religious ideas of freedom. One must remember that the Czechs and Slovaks were under rulers prior to that time. The Prussian War, which began in 1866, made conditions unlivable for many.”
The Czechs and Slovaks came from agricultural economies in Europe, looking for new opportunities in America. The end of the Civil War and slavery destroyed the South’s economy. The land was in poor condition after the many battles fought here. Many of the immigrants first settled on farmlands in the Northern and Midwestern states, but, were enticed by ads in Czech-and-Slovak-language newspapers placed by land agents and railroad companies advertising a warm climate and land for as little as $5 an acre in Virginia.
Land is still one of the major assets of Prince George County. Location on the eastern seaboard and access to major interstates and highways attracted businesses, such as Rolls-Royce, Perdue Farms, Service Center Metals, Standard Motor Products, Goya Foods, and more. Prince George takes pride in its farming heritage and rural beauty and plans to balance business growth with the quality of life that residents of rural communities enjoy. Now, more than a hundred years later, Czech connections with the region are again important. The Greater Richmond Partnership, which is tasked with attracting international business to Richmond, recently sent an economic development mission to South Moravia to explore regional similarities in our manufacturing base.
CONTACT HOPEWELL AND PRINCE GEORGE TOURISM OFFICE:
Visitors who want to attend the Czech and Slovak Folk Festival, can plan a weekend in the area. For details, please contact the Hopewell and Prince George, VA, tourism office: 1-800-863-8687. Travel advisors will be happy to share details on historic attractions, accommodations, food, musical performances and entertainment in and near Hopewell and Prince George, Virginia.
Hopewell/Prince George County, Virginia, is located 20 miles south of Richmond, Virginia, situated on 35 miles of historic riverfront on the Appomattox and James Rivers. The Visitor Center is just off Interstate 295 between Richmond and Williamsburg and has major transportation arteries running through it – Route 10, Route 460, and I-85.