Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Tribute to Heritage

August has been a whirlwind! Wasn't it just yesterday that I was getting ready to go to Nebraska? I went from the Miss Czech Slovak US pageant, to a family vacation, to my best friend's wedding, all in the blink of an eye.

I'm sure most of you following my blog know about the pageant results from my Facebook, but if you didn't already know, I am pleased to announce that I received Miss Czech Slovak US 1st Runner Up as well as receiving the Grand Talent Award. Congratulations to Morgan McMichen, Miss Czech Slovak US Queen 2014-2015 and to Elena Peerson, Miss Czech Slovak US 2nd Runner Up. We will make a great team this year!

 Here is a picture of all the young women who competed. This was taken after crowning.
Left to Right: Kalli Williams (Oklahoma); Nicole Meadows (Georgia), Alanna Burkhart (Wisconsin), Elena Peerson (Illinois); Corbin Jerde (Minnisota); Morgan McMichen (Missouri); Mariah Kostal (South Dakota); Christiana Gentry (Texas); Janna Waters (Iowa), Jessica Brockway (Kansas); and Stacey Pospisil (Nebraska).
Here are the full pageant results:
Queen: Morgan McMichen, Missouri
1st runner up: Christiana Gentry, Texas
2nd runner up: Elena Peerson, Illinois
Grant talent: Texas
Runner up talent: Illinois
Authentic Kroj: Missouri
Americanized Kroj: Kalli Williams, Oklahoma
Oratory: Missouri
Spirit Award: Mariah Kostal, South Dakota
Heritage involvement: Janna Waters, Iowa
Congeniality: Stacy Pospisil, Nebraska
Sokol: Illinois

Pictures from the weekend:
Naturally, I found the Chodsko section in the museum :-)

Friday night meet and greet as well as the Children's parade.

Introduction to the town during the festival. I am wearing my new Chodsko kroj that was made for me by a woman in the town hall in Domazlice. It is beautiful! This is kroj #1 out of 3 that I wore during the pageant.

This sweet little girl is Ava. I met her the week prior to the pageant when I was in Kansas for the Wilson Czech Festival. She was one of the Princess contestants in the Czech Princess pageant there. We instantly became friends! Her americanized kroj is precious!!! She is also VERY smart. She could recite her Czech family history. I was impressed.

I rode on a Mustang during the parades. It was AWESOME. P.s. that's my favorite car :-)

You all know Saylor already! She is my Czech Slovak Texas little sister. Her family drove up to Nebraska to watch me compete! Saylor was also able to participate in introductions and the parade. I'm so proud of this little girl. She isn't afraid to show how much she loves her heritage. She is wearing a Wallachian Kroj.
A group picture after meeting our Little Sisters and participating in the personal interviews. Little Sisters are like our Princesses during the weekend. This helps young girls get involved. It's a lot of fun having them with us! I know mine helped me stay calm.
My talent consisted of singing "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen. The Czech Lyrics were written by Jana Hromkova. I explain the song in my video at the end of this post.  This was kroj #2. It is a Chodsko Bridal Kroj
Receiving the Grand Talent Award. This was Kroj number 3. Also, a Chodsko Kroj in which I modeled in the pageant.

Receiving my 1st runner Up sash.

This was so funny. I literally had to go all the way down so Danielle could crown me haha!! Sorry, I'm a little tall :-)
Congratulating Morgan!
Award winners

With my Grand Talent Award plaque. I received a scholarship as my Talent and 1st Runner up Awards

Elena, my "Slovak Counterpart." We have these silly nicknames. She and I became great friends. Her family is from Bardejov, Slovakia! It was nice to meet her and her mother.

Back picture.

This is Alexa, she was my Little Sister during the weekend! She was so sweet. We rode in the parade together and I was able to introduce her to the crowd. She was just as nervous as I was about the crowning. She held my hand during the previous Queen's farewell speech and crossed her fingers for luck! She didn't receive a crown or a sash for being 1st Runner Up little sister, but I am sending her a special package. ;-) She deserves it!
The Texas support group with Elena and I! You have no idea how much these people mean to me. They have known me since I was a little girl and have watched me perform. They told the band playing at the SOKOL to invite me up to sing because I knew the same songs they were playing. So...they did and the band wouldn't let me stop singing! It was so much fun. I think they were shocked just as much as the crowd that I knew all of these old Czech songs.

Mom picture!
Queen's court

I proudly wore my ancestral kroj given to me by my family. This is my great grandmother's sister's vest. That's as authentic as you can get! :-) It looks stunning for being over 100 years old. We keep it in great condition. I'm blessed. 

Wilber-Czech Capital of the US

Something that my readers may (or may not) realize is that some of the costumes are not authentic. That is because this is an Americanized pageant with Americanized kroje. It was something I have not fully experienced before! It is neat to see the costumes these women made to represent their families because authentic kroje is very hard to find in America and can be quite expensive.

You see, when our ancestors came from Czechoslovakia, many families settled in the Midwest and tried to keep the old traditions (including wearing kroj). Their authentic traditions were transformed into an Americanized version that live on today. If you grew up in Czechoslovakia (Now Czech Republic and Slovakia) or have grown up traveling to the old country, this may seem very different to you. I know it was for me.

I realized on my trip to the Czech Republic this summer that Czechs are VERY passionate and prideful about their traditions. If you do something inaccurate, like wear your kroj the wrong way, you will get constructive criticism (this happened to me- I mixed pieces of different chodsko kroj-I will never do that again!! haha). So, it was difficult for me to understand the Americanized traditions and Americanized kroj. But, it is all meant for the good in remembering the traditions of our ancestors and that is the important aspect of this pageant.

 Wilber, Nebraska is such a small town (you can't even get cell service) but during this weekend, it is booming with 15,000+ people. They also like to party! All of the contestants stay at the Wilber Hotel during the weekend. On the side of the hotel is a beer garden with loud polka music all night long. Kalli Williams (Oklahoma) and I were the lucky ones to get the room right above all the action. Ear plugs didn't even help. haha! Also, knowing every song that was playing didn't help either. I felt like I was practicing for a Kovanda's Czech band performance! :-)

The pageant was a great way to meet other young women who are passionate about their Czech and Slovak heritage. I would highly recommend it to anyone of Czech, Slovak or Silesian descent. You make many friends through the process and you learn more about the Czech/Slovak American traditions. It was almost like a sorority! Also, it isn't a beauty pageant. Believe me, you will get a fair share of duck, dumplings and kolaches during the weekend. Any young woman between the ages of 16-26 can compete in their states or be an at-large contestant (meaning there are no societies that run a state pageant) in the National pageant.  It is focused on a lot of historical questions, as well as kroj (costume) and modern events in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. If you have any questions about the pageant or just want to know more, please visit :

For now, I am thrilled to start my very packed schedule of events this Fall! I have almost every weekend booked and I love it! This weekend I will be in West, TX at WestFest. It is one of the largest Texas-Czech festivals. If you would like to know more information about it, please visit

I will end my blog post with this: I'm thankful for all I have been able to achieve over the years. The pageant was just another step in my involvement of sharing heritage. It will not be the end of my work and I don't think it was meant to be the end. I have been blessed with living my life as an ambassador even before the pageant was an idea. I want to say thank you to all of my supporters around the world. Because of you, I feel like I am right where I belong. Thank you for your e-mails, messages and comments. I wish I could meet all of you someday. Please enjoy this clip from the talent portion of the pageant:

  Grand Talent Award-Hallelujah (Czech Version)

S láskou,
Christiana Gentry