City Park Flag Plaza ceremony, festival celebrates Czech culture

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The Manhattan Partner City Committee celebrated the first anniversary of the dedication of the Partner City Flag Plaza in City Park on Sunday with a recognition ceremony and kolache Czech festival.

The event celebrated Manhattan’s partnership with Dobřichovice, a city in the Czech Republic, established in 2006. Since the beginning of the partnership, a number of groups and
individuals from both communities have collaborated with each other, creating educational, cultural and civic bonds. This
relationship is now being celebrated with the construction of the Partner City
Flag Plaza.

The plaza is designed by Bowman Bowman Novick, Inc. and is located in the southwest corner of City Park. While the plaza is mostly finished, benches, flagpoles and dedication bricks are still being added. Funding for the plaza comes from community donations.

The festival attracted many people with Czech backgrounds, such as former Manhattan mayors and city commissioners Dave Fisher and Ed
Klimek, who are both of Czech descent. 2011 Miss Czech Slovak United States and 2010 Kansas Czech-Slovak Queen Christy Dowling, senior in biology, also spoke at the gathering.

“I like it because there was a lot of people, traditional artifacts and collages of traditional food, and the people that have Czech ancestors,” said Vitek Haca, exchange student and senior in business.

Haca enjoyed the congregation of people that came out to demonstrate their interest in Czech culture. 

After listening to speakers at the Flag Plaza recognition, the audience was
directed to the Jon & Ruth Ann Wefald pavilion for the potluck which featured food, games, music and introductions of Czech students
attending K-State.

Anna Hand, freshman in political science and international relations at Fort Hays State University, attended and helped raise donations
during the potluck. She is the 2012 Kansas Czech-Slovak Queen, and
volunteered to attend the event. 

“I love this event because most of
the event is in central Kansas, which is where I am from,” Hand said. “So when I get to come
out to Manhattan, it shows that the Czech Republic is branching out to more
places than it’s normally concentrated.”

Hand said that Dowling
told her about the event and encouraged her to connect to her Czech roots; 
Hand’s grandparents were prominent citizens of the Czech Republic. 

When she learned that the flag project was coming to the Manhattan area, Hand said she was excited to attend the event to try and further her knowledge about her family background. 

“I know that I drive my friends crazy about my Czech heritage because, basically, trying to become Miss Czech requires 95 percent of my thought process … They
ask a lot about the costume I wear, and one of the Czech exchange students said
that they had never seen the traditional Czech clothing that I wear for the
pageant,” Hand said.

The flag plaza recognition attracted many citizens and students who are interested in the culture or have connections to people of the Czech
Republic. 

Trevor Nekuda, Manhattan resident, said that his uncle, who originally came from Cuba, has been a resident of the Czech Republic for a number of years. 

“I thought the event went pretty well,” Nekuda said. “The fact that the mayors of
Manhattan are of Czech descent is just suprising, and I like the dedication for
the paving stones in front of the flags.”

Event attendees also had the opportunity to make donations, which buys them inscriptions on the bricks that were paved in the walkway in front of the flags. In addition, each bench and
flagpole could be sponsored for $1,000 apiece, as tax
deductible donations. 

For more information about the Flag Plaza, see the
City of Manhattan website at ci.manhattan.ks.us.

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