Friday, March 9, 2012

Queening All The Way

2010-2011 Wilber Czech Queen

I was the 2010-2011 Wilber Czech Queen for my hometown. It was an experience that is a life changer! I traveled to many new places and got to meet a ton of new people. I wanted to do a little review over it to fill all of you in on all the things that happened that year so here's my story.

A little background about me to begin with. My dad (Kelly Homolka) has been active playing in polka bands since he was 15 and even knows a little bit of the Czech language (he can hold conversations if you know Czech yourself). He plays just about any instrument you can think of, yes he can play a little guitar but likes to stick to the wind instruments if possible. My mom (Mary Zoubek-Homolka) met my dad while in high school, they both loved music and thus the love story began. They both have been extremely active with Czech Days and other Czech events and both of my parents have 100% Czech in their blood. Both sets of my grandparents have instilled many fun Czech activities and morals into us grandkids and we always have yummy Czech food at all of our holiday meals. I've been raised by a interesting wonderful Czech family with many Czech traditions, which have formed who I am today.

My support system! Without these two I wouldn't be who I am and where I am today! Love you both!

The main reason I decided to run for the Wilber Czech Queen title was because I'd wanted to be the Wilber Queen since I was little! I can remember going to the Czech Days parades (and participating in them) since before I was even born. Mom was 8 months prego marching through the parade with me in her big round tummy, I guess even back then the Czech music just made me a happy little camper. :) I was also the Wilber Czech Princess back in 1999-2000 so I had a little experience traveling and I had a great time with it! I had Chrissy Keller as my queen so it was a fun time making memories with the Kellers! Another reason I wanted to run was because I felt as an active community member I wanted to do my part to represent Wilber and spread the knowledge not only of my heritage, but of my community and what we do throughout the year to promote our Czech heritage.

A picture of me and "Papa Chuck" Charlie Keller. I was lucky enough to be his daughters little pricess 10 years prior to me running for queen! Great guy that ol Charles! ;)
Well, me being a nervous wreck worried and worried for two whole weeks before the "official interview." Once I got into the interview I did great though, worked myself up over nothing. I was pleased with myself and the interview I went through. At the time my Grandma, Dorothy Homolka, was sick so we were also helping her with getting to doctors appointments amoung many other things. She was rushed via ambulance to Lincoln one evening where they discovered an infection so it was that night that I called the queen commitee to see if there was a possible chance I could find out if I had gotten the title so I could tell grandma. Sure enough I recieved the title and was so excited that I got to tell grandma! Grandpa and Grandma Homolka were major influences in my Czech involvement so they meant the world to me and getting crowned queen I know made my grandparents proud.

Taken when I was crowned, we had the opportunity to get all of us together and I snuck a photo in of me getting to give grandma a kiss. It is a photo I will forever cherish!

By the time it came around for the Czech Kick-Off I was excited to finally be able to tell people I was getting crowned, it's usually kept a secret and just imediate family gets clued in on the big news. I am such a blabber mouth that this task was super impossible for me but I'm proud to admit I only told a couple friends. Crowning time came and I know my grandma didn't want to come, she felt she didn't want others to see her at that point. I was bummed that I wasn't going to have her there, so we went over to the nursing home to show her my new Kroj (costume) that we had made for my crowning. We walked into her room and she was gone! We were surprised to learn she had decided to come and watch me afterall. When I arrived I saw she was sitting there right in front ready to watch me take on the honor that I would be recieving. That alone made my crowning so much more special. I recieved my crown and sash and helped to "crown" my price and princess that night. We danced the night away to polkas and spent time with family and friends. It was just an awesome experience to see all of the people that came out to support the Wilber Czechs.

The "Royal Court" included my prince and princess, John & Julia Ourecky

My wonderful friends who came down to cheer me on when I was crowned!

We started traveling, not just to some towns, to a lot of towns. We traveled well over 3,000 miles in less than three months going to parades, festivals and just doing meet and greets to spread our love of the Czech heritage to others. Another memory that really sticks out in my head was the first time we put together the "Queen Mobile" wow, at that time that was a stressful time. I can remember everyone holding different parts of the float and all of us looking puzzled. We just burst out into laughter over the whole thing because no one had a clue what went where. We were kind of getting worried because the parade was supposed to start soon and we still had parts of it that weren't put together yet. Luckily we got it all back together and in one piece with a little time to spare. (and enough time for the boys to get one beer down)

Here's a picture of our float and the boys taking a break to wave

I got to know Julia and John quite well over the summer and was amazed at how little I knew about video games. Luckily John clued me in about many of them and what weapons were able to kill each dragon and I even learned a little bit about how to painfully torture some army men also. Julia taught me many new things also, she is just a gorgeous little lady who I can already tell is going to one day be representing Nebraska at the National Pageant and I'll be there cheering her on every step of the way! I can tell that going to these events has really helped these two become more outgoing and less shy. It surprised me from the day we were crowned to the day we gave our titles away just how much more outgoing they were and were willing to talk to strangers they met on their journey this past year.

Another silly memory is the time we were at the Omaha Czech Cultural Club event, they had a kolache eating contest. I can remember being talked into it and agreed, I mean free kolache and chance at earning a title? No questions! There were three age categories, little ones, mediums (me) and older ones. Well, I hear go and we all begin chowing down. Here I am trying my hardest to get three of those mostly dough pastries down and I can feel everything just not going anywhere but I keep shoveling. Next time I know the gag reflexes start kickin in. I have Stef (the State Czech Queen) laughing making me laugh and gag at the same time, and well, you can just about imagine how silly I looked. The contest ended and I the results were in, I placed third!! ...did I mention there were only three of us in my age division?
The Omaha Cultural Club event had a Kolache eating contest. I was so proud that I placed that day!
I placed third.... out of three people.

I was extremely blessed with getting to have my dad and Bob Mager and the occassional straggler to play accordions with us while we traveled. I think they just enjoyed being able to go to festivals and play but I really enjoyed the extra-special music and time I got to spend with my dad and Bobby Jo. It meant so much to know that they too were willing to give up there weekends to come out with me and promote our heritage. I also must give kuddos to Travis for putting up with "queenzilla" as he called me when I'd get into my neat freak perfesctionst modes. What a wonderful guy for putting up with it all!

A picture from a parade where we chose to take the truck instead of the float. Everyone made fun of my hot pink sunglasses but they sure came in handy! We were glad we had the boys there to play some polka's for us also!

Next thing I knew it was pageant time. It was a great experience, I loved all the PR time I was getting through all of the events I went to. All of the public speaking was really giving me the confidence I now realize helped me so much at the pageant. I was however getting a tid bit nervous about representing the National Czech Captil (Wilber) and hoping that I could live up to their expectatitions and bring home a title. So there I was, practicing last minute, finishing up my questions last minute and starting on my kroj (Czech costume) last minute.

I can recall finishing up my application for State Pageant we were printing things off last minute, and I remember mom rushing down to the post office and standing there telling the mailman he couldn't pick up the mail until I brought down one more envelope.... yup I'm that much of a procrastinator we went that far.

PAGEANT DAY! Here's what I can remember of it, it just went so fast it seems!

Throughout the day of state pageant I can remember feeling like a rollercoaster of emotions, the beginning was nerves to meet the other ladies, then came practice on stage with our talents. That alone was interesting trying to find the right place to make my tap shoes, tap as we were on a giant tarp (they didn't want to hurt the hardwood floors). Then was the feeling of let's just have fun with the girls! We have the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful lunch by the church there in Clarkson and the Czech food didn't let me down!

Our reigning State Queen (Stefanie Vocasek) gave us all gifts of these cute bibs for us to wear to keep our Kroj's looking nice and clean! We of course loved them :D

When it was private interview time I was feeling some small nerves, sitting in the room with the other ladies and hearing them get called one by one really didn't help calm me either. Since I was from Wilber I was of course picked to go almost last for the private interviews. It's kind of hard to prepare for this one as they usually ask you off the wall questions. I can remember I was asked why I wanted to be the state queen and also what I would like to see started up as a new Czech program that would involve more youth. I think the most nervous part for me was when they asked me about some famous Czech Homolka guy, obviously I had no clue who they were talking about but I smiled and made it up.

After the private interview we had a little chit chat break. It was nice to get to know the girls and be able to just relax! We were all on edge so giving us prep time to focus on talents, memorize the fish bowl questions and just jam out to some super girly music made some of our nerves go away.

On our way up to the high school (where the contest took place) we had time to meet up with our family's and have them give us last minute advice and hugs. For anyone who knows me you can imagine how stressed out and "queenzilla." Thankfully my loving caring guy (Travis) didn't freak out on me as he came strolling in on his own time with a cute boquet of flowers. The silly boy is new to the flower buying business so when he handed them to me he I quote said, "I would have gotten you roses, but those sure cost a lot. I would have also bought you a bigger boquet but even these were expensive!" ...yup, thank's my man.
When all of our introductions were done and we were settling into the competition time the nerves were really starting to take control over me. I can remember that first we had our Kroj (costume) modeling. It went great I felt, basically you just walked around on stage flaunting your Kroj and showing each piece off. I started out my Kroj by doing rich paisley colors, I felt like those colors represented the rich colors of fruits and veggies that my family raised in their crops over here and back in the old country. I choose to include several family owned garnet pieces of jewlery. I also had differnet pendants from both of my grandmas that I was proud to be wearing. My dear family friend (and other mother) Cheri Mager was gracious enough to let me borrow an apron she found, we ended up "blinging" it out and adding eighteen hearts to it. The eighteen hearts represented the eighteen years that I had been dancing and I had each of my aunts hand sew them on. I had black slippers as they were comfy and I could dance the night away in them if needed. I can't remember off the top of my head all of the items that I wore and the reasons for wearing them but I'm sure I can go back and look to re-remember perhaps.

You may not see the nerves but they're in there!
After the Kroj modeling it was time for my onstage interview. The one thing I was super worried about. Well, you had to pick two topics to discuss, one was my ag background and our fainting goats. The other was about my Czech family traditions and Czech involvement. Well the interviewer asked me about ag and then skipped my second question, as you can guess it didn't go over well when the points were tallied up in that category.  After he asked us our questions then we had to answer the fishbowl question. I didn't practice these or even print off the questions until two days before so I was hoping and praying that I would get one of the easier questions. Luckily enough, I got an easy question!!

Me getting a little PR time in, doing my onstage interview.

Next came the talent time. I can remember learning my dance on a Tuesday and starting to practice it with what little time I had left before Saturday. I loved to make mom nervous when I was in dance when I was younger (I'd never practice but be just fine on stage later on). I decided to do a folk reading / tap dance as my talent because I really just didn't want to make a decision which one I liked better. I have been beseda (polka) dancing since I was little but could not figure out how to do a polka dance on my own since this is mainly a partner type of dance style. I've also been a dancer since I was little so that part I knew would be easy to do.

So I started out by being dressed like a little old Czech lady who created the polka step and was waltzing around my kitchen sweeping, then I ran behind a curtain to do a quick wardrobe change and put on my tap shoes. Then the tap dance got started! The songs I choose to dance to had to be two different songs, one slower to show how the step kinda got started, one more upbeat and fun to dance to with tap shoes on. I choose Annie & The Cabbage Patch for my first song, it is afterall one of the first songs I danced to as a Beseda Dancer. The other song was The I Love to Dance polka, because it just made sense, I LOVE TO DANCE! I get on stage and start doing my talent, I'm actually feeling quite confident with the first half and tell myself that I can do this. I land the ending just right, run back behind the make-shift curtain to change, finish that effortlessly and then hurry back to hit my spot in the next song. I started the tap right and then about eight counts into it, I completely froze! Luckily I'm good at improvising so I started to make it up and I had to giggle at myself (much later after I came home) because I am quick enough to make things up at the flick of a wrist.

Part 1 of 2 for my talent portion. Here is the picture of me pretending to be the little old lady who created the polka step.
Part 2 of 2 for my talent. Here was me tap tap tapping away!

Beating myself up about that and my onstage question I just convinced myself that I had no chance in winning let alone getting runner-up. So when it came time for them to announce the winners I was in absolute shock when they announced me for THREE out of the six different awards! THREE! I ended up winning the Kroj competition, the private interview and also the heritage award. I could have won four of the awards as we tied for miss congeaneality but then when we re-voted the other girl won. The newly crowned queen had won only two of the awards and the other girl had won the miss congeneality award.

The Wilber Czech Royalty after pageant in Clarkson
All in all, pageant was fun, I'm totally glad I got to attend and be a part of it. It was an amazing experience and I'm lucky to have made so many new awesome friends! I've never been a shy person but this experience gave me an even better insight into public speaking. I loved being up on stage and seeing all of my friends and family members out there in the crowd cheering me on! It was an amazing thing to experience and I will strongly encourage other young ladies to try out themselves.

Just some of my many supporters that had enough time to get a picture with me.
Look how lucky I am to have so many people supporting me!!

We ended up doing a ton more traveling throughout the summer and the rest of 2010 and part of 2011 and then in March we gave up out titles to the 2011-2012 Czech Royalty. I was a bit worried at the beginning of the summer how the year would go but by the end of the summer I had realized I made many new friends and I got to know a family I would have otherwise never known. Thank you one and all for supporting me in the wonderful journey I had and I hope to inspire many other little "princesses" to someday try out to be queens themselves!

Here are some more pictures of fun that we had throughout the year. Enjoy!

Waiting for the parade to start in Western and trying to get away from that horribly hot sun!

Look mom we layed them all nicely so they wouldn't wrinkle, oh, the other junk?
Ya, it takes a lot of space to make sure we don't lose any of it.

The "Queen Mobile" as was later nicknamed really helped us out at the Wilber Czech Festival.
Being so hot it helped to haul us around requiring less effort on our part.

My fav supporters!! LOVE YOU!

We got to meet the governor at the Seward 4th of July Parade

Pretty good looking group of kids eh? This is just some of them!
I help Dirk Altman teach the Senior Beseda Dancers

At the De-Crowning where I gave my title to the new Queen

The Friend Parade decided to rain on us, that's ok, we decided to tuff it out anyways

All of us ladies stopping for a photo opt before we started the day

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