Cherry is my personal favorite. And it has been since I was a little girl and was first introduced to kolace, usually at the home of my great-grandmother, Olive (Moravek) Rashleigh. She was Czechoslovakian and whenever we got together for family gatherings at her house, my mom would take homemade kolace with fillings like cherry, apricot, prune and poppyseed.
When Steve and I saw the “open” sign in the window of the normally closed bakery in Wilber last weekend at the Czech Festival (read more about that here), we couldn’t resist the temptation of the buttery, fruit-filled pastries. When we got inside, we saw hundreds of kolace that filled the cases of small bakery and took our place in the back of a long line of other kolace lovers. As we waited, I looked around the old bakery a bit, noticing the large wooden paddles on the wall which were once used to slide the tasty treats in and out of the oven. Behind the counter, where the owners struggled to keep pace with the demand for their sweet pastries, I saw a large kitchen with racks and racks of kolace baked special for the annual festival.
The owner asked if I’d like to see the old oven, and of course, I said yes. In between filling orders, she showed me around the kitchen and back to the old Middleby-Marshall oven that, for decades, has baked kolace and rye bread on six revolving shelves.
The owner told me the oven came from a bakery in Syracuse, Neb., and can bake 630 kolace at one time. Considering the entire process of making kolace takes about six hours, that’s a good thing. He said they made more than 1,200 kolace for the Czech Festival this year and from the looks of the lines at the bakery, they were easily going to sell out. He said cherry is, by far, the top seller and accounts for about one-third of their sales. The Wilber Bakery also carried raspberry, poppyseed, apricot, and cream cheese kolace.
When we returned from Wilber last weekend, I took my mom a half dozen of her favorite flavor – poppyseed. I remembered her making kolace as well when I was a kid, and asked if she had great-grandma’s recipe for me to share on our blog. She said she hadn’t used great-grandma’s recipe in a very long time, as she had gotten another from a local Czech woman and she says it’s even better. If you have the time, see for yourself.
Have you had kolace? What is your favorite filling? Let us know in the comment section. We’d love to hear from you.
Polka music, kolaches, and lots and lots of pivo (beer), make the small town of Wilber, Nebraska, the place to be the first weekend in August. Each year, the Czech Capital of the United States hosts thousands of Czechoslovakians (and beer drinkers) for the Wilber Czech Festival. The three-day event is a celebration of Czech heritage and since my grandmother was a Moravek and we live only 10 miles from Wilber, Steve and I thought we’d make the short drive to Czech out the festivities today. We hadn’t walked a block toward the festival before we heard the word, “dumpling” and then, we began hearing the polka music.
Lots of polka music filled the air today! (Photo by Ann Teget for www.postcardjar.com)
We arrived just in time for the Accordion Jamboree where a gazebo packed full of accordion players played songs like, “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” and “Beer Barrel Polka.”
Wilber Czech Dancers entertained crowds in the town’s center. (Photo by Ann Teget for www.postcardjar.com)
We had time to venture over to the art show for a bit before watching the Wilber Czech Dancers. Young children in Czech attire danced the “Flying Dutchman” and the “Chicken Dance” before a group of teenagers began to dance the
The detailed needle work on all of the Czech dresses was amazing. (Photo by Ann Teget for postcard jar.com)
polka in the street at the town’s center.
We walked up and down the streets for a bit, admiring all of the beautifully crafted dresses and vests. Czech costumes were everywhere at the festival. Men, women, kids, and even dogs donned elaborate red, white, and black costumes. Sewing and needle work were also on display at a costume exhibit and quilt show.
While we were there we bought a Czech staple, kolace (cherry, poppyseed and raspberry) and a loaf of freshly made rye bread . Then, we tried something new to us — Knedlik. For $6, we got a large styrofoam cup filled with a mixture of kraut, dumplings, and pork. Wasn’t too bad.
We tried a Knedlik cup for the first time. It was a mixture of sauerkraut, dumplings, and pork. (Photo by Ann Teget for www.postcardjar.com)
I wasn’t feeling the best, but we did stay around long enough for the introductions of the Czech Queens from around the U.S. and even ran into a friend whose daughter and son are currently reigning Lincoln Czech Princess and Prince.
Lincoln Czech Princess and Prince. (Photo by Ann Teget for www.postcardjar.com)
We left just before the big Saturday afternoon parade began but even so, we had a great time at the festival and will look forward to going back next year. I’d love to see more of the Czech Heritage Demonstrations, the Bohemian Tractor Pull, and of course, the Kolace Eating Contest.
Have you been to Wilber’s Czech Days? What do you like best about the annual celebration? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.
We’re Steve and Ann Teget. We spent more than two decades in corporate America and public education before Ann’s health and Steve’s aversion to middle school girl drama convinced us to try something new. Now we are making the most of midlife and telling authentic stories about extraordinary travel. And yes, we send ourselves postcards.