August 6, 2008

Czech Hall Has Rich History in Yukon

By Monica Albert, The Oklahoman

Aug. 6--For more than 70 years, Czech Hall has been a place to practice polka and so much more.

Founded in 1901, the hall was built on land donated by local Czech immigrants. It began as a social hall for Czechs, but over time became a center for everyone in Yukon, as well as those in nearby areas. The hall is co-owned by two groups, the Western Fraternal Life Association, a Czech fraternal benefit society, and SOKOL, a group of people of common ethnicity, heritage or interest.

The tradition of weekly polka dances began in 1930. From 8 to 11 p.m. every Saturday, the hall hosts dances that are open to everyone. The family friendly atmosphere attracts people of all ages, lodge President Stacey Ratliff said.

"People from all over the metropolitan area come," Ratliff said. "And it is not at all uncommon to see a newborn and a 90-year-old in the same place."

The dances usually feature one of two metro polka bands, the Masopust Polka Band or the Bohemian Knights. On some occasions, a traveling polka band will perform. The bands play many polka songs and folk dances, as well as songs from other genres.

Czech Hall also hosts large dances for New Year's Eve, Halloween and Mardi Gras. The Oklahoma Czech Festival is held every year on the first Saturday of October and features a parade, folk dances and much more.

"Every time the Czechs get together, they eat good food and dance to good music," said Elaine Benda, Western Fraternal Life Association district representative. "It's easy for everyone to join in, no matter whether they are of Czech heritage or not."


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