WELCOME TO THE CZECH HERITAGE SOCIETY OF TEXAS Website
Lauren Gerik of Abbott was crowned Miss Czech-Slovak US 2021-2022. The Annual Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant was held August 7-8 during the 60th National Wilber Czech Festival in Wilber, Nebraska. Lauren is the daughter of John and Molly (Dvorak) Gerik of Abbott and proudly represented Texas at the 2021 Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant. Her Little Czech Sister, who was assigned to her after arriving in Wilber, is Alayna Brozovsky of Seward, Nebraska.
Prizes included the beautiful Czech crystal crown, Bohemian Czech Crystal, $2500 toward a trip to the Czech or Slovak Republic, and a $2000 cash scholarship sponsored by Lisa “Karpisek” Messman and the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago. A $250 educational scholarship award was presented to the contestant crowned the national queen in memory of John C. and Alice T. Rokusek, sponsored by Dr. Cecelia Rokusek. First Runner-Up was presented to Hayley Piroutek of Kansas. Second Runner-up was presented to Addison Hejl of Nebraska.
In addition to the national title, Lauren was also awarded the Authentic Kroj award for her modeling of an authentic replica of a traditional kroj from the village of Trebanice in the Prachatice district of Southern Bohemia. All materials used to construct the kroj came from the Czech Republic, and several pieces, such as the scarf, apron, vest, handkerchief, and caplet, were created there. The remainder of the kroj was constructed locally in West by seamstress Maggie Grmela. Various other prizes awarded included Heritage, Oratory, and Sokol. A newly formed award of cash scholarship and Bohemian Czech Crystal for the Cultural Preservation Award were provided by Kathy Podsednik, Miss Texas Czech-Slovak Pageant Director, and Julius Kramaric, Pivovar Waco.
The Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant, which has taken place in Wilber since 1987, consists of four parts: private interview, onstage interview, kroj modeling, and talent. Last year, the festival was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, leading all contestants to complete their state title a year before competing for the national title. Lauren was one of eight young ladies to represent her home state at the national pageant. Other states represented included Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
For her talent, Lauren performed a selection on her keyboard entitled, “Largo” from Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World” by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. Lauren chose this piece because the Bohemian composer shares the family name Dvorak. She was proud to play a piece that not only demonstrates her love of music, but her love of the Czech culture. The queens were hosted at the Historic Wilber Hotel, with Lauren staying in the ‘Kral’ family room. The Czech Heritage Society of Texas, along with Wharton County Czech Heritage Society, helped support sponsorship of queen rooms. The Czech Heritage Society of Texas also sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers to welcome her for the competition.
Lauren is currently a sophomore English major at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. She is on track to graduate in 2024 with her master’s degree in English, as well as her secondary teaching certification. She plans to become a high school English teacher.
Throughout the weekend, the contestants participated in numerous activities at the festival. This included giving daily introductions to the public, riding in daily parades along with the Alumni Band in Czech attire, participating in a silent auction, and attending mass on Sunday. Numerous state Czech-Slovak queens from all over the country had the chance to participate in these activities, including 2021 CHS Miss Texas Czech-Slovak Madison Murphy. Attendees enjoyed Czech youth dancers, authentic Czech foods, Czech Museum, Czech kroj displays, and kroj presentations by the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In addition there was dancing, kolaches, homemade soup, dumplings, and kolache eating contests, and sausage houses to visit.
When asked about her feelings regarding the recent crowning, Lauren said: “I am deeply honored to be chosen as Miss Czech-Slovak US 2021-2022 and am ecstatic to begin this incredible journey. I look forward to traveling the country, continuing to promote, learn about, and deepen my passion for the Czech and Slovak cultures. I am incredibly grateful for all the pageant sponsors, especially my primary sponsor, the Czech Heritage Society of Texas. I would also like to thank the many sponsors nation-wide who support the national pageant. I appreciate the support of my family and friends, Kathy Podsednik, Texas Pageant Director, as well as so many others who attended and I have met along the way. I am very grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to see all that the year brings!”
Texas Highways Interview
Texas Highways: Abbott is known as the birthplace of Willie Nelson. What else can you tell us about your hometown?
Lauren Gerik: It’s very small. We have a high percentage of Czechs that live in this area, so I’m related to probably about half the people in the town. We have a small Division 1A school here that I attended from pre-K through 12th grade, and we compete in lots of different sports: volleyball, football, basketball, track, all that. It’s a farming community.
TH: Is Friday night football popular?
LG: Yes, very!
TH: What made you want to compete in the Miss Czech-Slovak pageant?
LG: I first really got involved after one of my very good friends, Lydia Pustejovsky, who’s also from Abbott, ran for Miss Texas Czech-Slovak and won. She also competed at nationals in 2019. Seeing the way that whole experience changed her as a person and very clearly deepened her love for her culture just inspired me to get involved in this way as well. I thought this would be a great way to really promote it and cultivate my love for it and share my love of the culture with others.
TH: How do you qualify to compete in the Miss Czech-Slovak Pageant?
LG: You must be a single female between the ages of 16-26, and you have to be of Czech or Slovak descent, meaning you must be able to trace back your ancestry to either the regions of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Czech Silesian, or Carpathian Ruthenia. You have to be able to prove your ancestry. You also have to have a traditional Czech costume, called a kroj. My family originated in Bohemia and came in the late 1800s to Texas. The kroj that I wore at the pageant is an authentic replica of a traditional kroj from my ancestral village of Trebanice. Bohemian kroj are typically less ornate and made from richer fabrics and have less intricate details on them. So mine is pretty plain, but it’s made with richer fabrics. I helped with the research and picking out of fabrics, and we had most of the pieces made in the Czech Republic. The rest was made locally by a seamstress in West, Maggie Grmela.
TH: What did you learn about Czech culture through this process?
LG: This was actually a question I got asked in my onstage interview. I think it’s really unique to the Czech and Slovak culture that we’re very proud of our culture. We are not afraid to shout it from the rooftops, “We are Czech! We are Slovak!” We have so many different festivals all throughout the U.S. going on all year long. …We all have a great desire to know where we came from, and we love just getting together and celebrating what we have in common with others who share the same ancestry. Other cultures do it but I feel not as much as Czechs.
TH: Did you notice any differences between a Texas Czech-Slovak and one from another part of the country?
LG: Overall, the cultures are very similar depending on where you go throughout the country, and I think that’s what makes being Czech or Slovak American so great. No matter where you go, it feels like home. [But there are] small differences, like our kolaches are a little bit different. I will say, I happen to think that Texas kolaches are the best—I may be a little bit biased. But in experiencing Wilber Czech Days, compared to my local Czech festival in West, they are a little bit different. Here in West, the bakeries tend to make them bigger but with more bread. There, in Wilber, they were much smaller, as the homemade ones are. Here, when people make the homemade ones, they are much smaller. We have a few bakeries that do that. I really love poppyseed kolaches, and the poppyseed kolaches there were finely ground, and here they’re not typically so finely ground. So small differences.
TH: You’re the first Texan to win this crown in 15 years. How does that make you feel?
LG: Very excited and very blessed to be able to have broken our dry spell. I was not expecting it at all. I just went into the pageant weekend trying to have fun and celebrate our culture and do my best to represent Texas Czech-Slovaks.
TH: What are some of your favorite places, restaurants, or events around Texas that celebrate Czech-Slovak heritage?
LG: Some of my favorite places to go, and I’ve been numerous times throughout my life, are the painted churches in the Schulenberg area. I just love going to see them. I love being down in that area because all the little towns you drive through are just traditional little Czech towns that were established many years ago. Some of my family is originally from down in that area, like Moulton and Industry, where my family first settled when they came here. I also love going to La Grange. They have a big museum there called the Texas Czech Heritage Cultural Center, and they have a lot of Czech artifacts in the museum. They also have some historical homes and replicas of homes that Czech settlers would have occupied when they came here. It’s a very cool experience. They also have a big genealogy center, with a bunch of records there. If you are looking to find out who your ancestors were and where they came from, that would be the best place, in my knowledge, to find that out. That’s who I contacted to find out about my ancestry.
TH: And what about closer to home?
LG: Very near my hometown, West is deep in Czech culture. We have Westfest every year [Sept. 3-5 this year]. We have a Czech restaurant, Czech-American, and several bakeries. They also have a museum there, History of West Museum, that contains historical artifacts and the history of West. It’s great to be able to look back and see the town that existed when my family arrived in the West area years ago.
Lastly, one of my more favorite things that I’ve only attended a few years but I love it is the National Polka Festival in Ennis. It’s on Memorial Day Weekend and starts off with a parade on Saturday, and they have multiple halls with polka bands playing all day. It’s just super fun to go there and celebrate Czech culture with people from all over.
TH: Do you need to know how to polka dance to compete in the Miss Czech-Slovak Pageant?
LG: No, but I would say it’s probably helpful to know.
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The CHS Miss Texas Czech-Slovak Pageant is searching for young women who love their heritage and want to promote the Czech and Slovak culture for our 15 chapters across Texas.
Date: Saturday, April 24, 2021
Time: 8AM -- 4PM
Location: Wall, TX
Ahoj - Congratulations contestants!
Congratulations Madison Murphy, crowned the 2021 Czech Heritage Society Miss Texas Czech-Slovak Queen, with her Little Czech Sister Rachel Alexander. She represented McLennan-Hill CHS and is from Abbott, Texas. Madison will compete in the Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant in 2022.
2020 Miss Texas Czech-Slovak Queen, Lauren Gerik, and Little Czech Sister Sarah Alexander
Date: Saturday, February 22, 2020
Time: 8AM -- 4PM
Location: Taiton, Wharton County, TX 77437
Date: Saturday, February 16, 2019
Time: 8AM -- 4PM
St. Joseph Parish Center
507 E. 26th St. Bryan, TX
Date: Saturday, April 28, 2018
Time: 8AM -- 4PM
Queen of Peace Catholic Church Life Center
1224 Cedar Drive,
LaMarque, TX 77568
Heritage Involvement Award: Linda Babinat (Iowa)
Miss Congeniality Award: Laura Chemler (Illinois)
Sokol Runner-Up Award: Sarah Vytlacil (Kansas)
Sokol Award: Abi Kaliska (Wisconsin)
Oratory Award: Madeline Hecker (Oklahoma)
Authentic Kroj Award: Sarah Vytlacil (Kansas)
Americanized Kroj Award: Madeline Hecker (Oklahoma)
Talent Runner-Up Award: Emily Manning (Missouri)
Grand Talent Award: Bailey Gare (Minnesota)
Miss Czech-Slovak US 2nd Runner Up: Sarah Vytlacil (Kansas)
Miss Czech-Slovak US 1st Runner Up: Emily Manning (Missouri)
Miss Czech-Slovak US Queen: Madeline Hecker (Oklahoma)