Thursday, March 5, 2009

Vitame Vas

In the tiny town I grew up in, we had a yearly festival called "Kolacky Days," in which we pretended that everyone living there was Czech and knew what the hell those ladies in red dresses with frilly aprons were lip-synching to on the Czech Singers float in the parade and said things like "Vitame Vas" (We welcome you!) to one another while eating dumplings, sauerkraut and cheese curds.  It was good fun, and also involved beer, as all good fun does.  There was a corn-eating contest and my dad competed in it (as was required of the local doctor), and lost miserably every year to men with arms as big as my head who worked in the steel mill or the Green Giant canning factory.  As kids we bought tickets at a dollar a piece to ride amusement park rides that had been put up overnight in the park and would be taken down and packed off to another town the next week, and as far as I know no one ever died on them, even though I'm pretty sure they were short a few more bolts every year.  

On Saturday night there was a dance in the park and it started out with one of the local polka bands, and the children and older women polka'd together until it started to get dark, sometime after 9pm, when a rock and roll cover band came on and my parents would walk us home, where we could hear the bass and the drums from the upstairs bathroom window.  On Sunday we all went out with wooden stakes and rope to mark off our lawns and keep the drunken parade-goers from parking on it and then walked down to the funeral home and sat on the curb and waved at local politicians and the winners of the Kolacky Queen Pageant so they would throw us Tootsie rolls and suckers.  If we were feeling athletic we competed in the Bun Run, a 4-mile race that went straight out of town on the highway, looped around an abandoned dirt road by the railroad tracks and headed back in, chugging up the hill on mainstreet in the 95 degree heat and being hosed down by volunteers that used to be our elementary school teachers.  

If we were old enough we spent Friday and Saturday night on Main Street (which was really First Street, but no one ever called it that), which had been blocked off to traffic and the six bars spilled out onto the sidewalk and street with beer specials and karaoke, once that got popular.  Boys and girls flirted and men and women drank like teenagers and started fights and drove home through the town, beaching their trucks in my parents' backyard and good-naturedly tearing up the grass trying to get back out.  

After the parade on Sunday people trickled back to their homes with bags full of Kolacky and pockets full of candy, and the municipal employees headed out to the parks to gather bags and bags of trash, and on Monday the Green Giant workers sat at the same picnic tables and ate their lunches and talked about how much the festival had changed.



  1. Damn! A dollar a ride! That adds up!

    If I didn't know you, I would think you made this up and it didn't really happen.

  2. Ok, so I made up the price of the tickets. I can't remember that far back, and they don't have the rides anymore.

    Why would you think I made this up? Because it's just TOO AWESOME?