52nd annual Czech Festival in full swing - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

52nd annual Czech Festival in full swing

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Posted By: Camila Orti

Thousands of people are in Wilber, Neb. this weekend for the 52nd annual Czech Festival.

It's a tradition that brings about 50,000 people to the small town each year.

The festival honors and celebrates Czech traditions; it features parades, pageants, live polka bands and dancing.

"There's a lot of things for the kids, the parade's a lot of fun, and all the dinners they have here- duck and pork and kolaches everywhere," visitor Johnnie Travis said.

Three full days of Czech entertainment include about 100 vendors and more than 50 polka bands.

But this year, a very special piece is missing. Organizer Charlie Keller passed away in April. He had been the president of Nebraska Czechs of Wilber and promoted the festival for nearly 13 years.

"It's a little sad because we don't have him out on that mic out there and he had such a love for the Czech, and promoted these Czech Days for a lot of years and we really miss him," vendor and friend Tim Reichers said.

Family and friends say Charlie dedicated his life to this heritage. His son, Darin Keller, remembers his dad's enthusiasm from a very young age.

"We'd get home from church and he would move the kitchen table and we would dance around in the kitchen, that's how he taught us to polka," Darin said.

Darin added that Charlie used to hang calendars in every business in Wilber to count down the days before Czech Fest.

"He loved Wilber, he loved our heritage and he really loved letting people know about our small community," daughter Cristen Keller said.

Looking at this year's turn-out, Darin says he thinks his father would be proud.

Czech Festival continues through tomorrow with festivities starting as early as 7 a.m. If you haven't made it out yet, Wilber is just a 45 minute drive from Lincoln.

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