Dozinky memories

By: 
Chuck Kajer, The New Prague Times

This weekend sees the biggest event of the year in New Prague… The annual Dozinky Festival.

Dozinky has been around for 34 years now. I’ve been to all but a few of the early ones. I think the first one I was around for was in 1988, which would have been the fourth one. I was working in Le Sueur and I remember bringing my young family to the event. Josh would have been two years old and the thing I remember most was him stopping in front of each band that was playing and dancing to the music.

Two years later, I began my first tenure at The Times, and I have been to every Dozinky since then. There were three years, from 1999 to 2001, when I wasn’t working at the paper, but I still made it a point to come downtown and enjoy the festivities.

Here are some of my memories of the early Dozinky celebrations.

1 - The first Dozinky celebration was actually called Oktoberfest - after the German celebration. It was held in early October, and from accounts, it was a cold afternoon. The next year, the organizers decided it would be best to take advantage of the city’s ethnic heritage, and the event was moved to September and rebranded “Dozinky - A Czechoslovakian Harvest Festival.”

2 - In the early 1990s, there was a Kid’s Pedal Pull held during Dozinky. I had seen the event at another community and suggested it to Melissa Langer, who was head of the Chamber. With the agricultural theme, I thought it would fit right in. My son won his age group at the event that year, his first trophy.

3 - During the first few years of Dozinky, Main Street was not closed off to traffic, except during the parade. There was no parking allowed on the street during the festival, and there were ropes along the sides of the street to keep people away from the two lanes of traffic. As the event grew, the wise decision was made to close off Main Street. Then, about 10 to 15 years ago, MnDOT balked at closing the street. This would have ended the celebration as we know it. Local leaders lobbied their legislators and made several trips to the capitol to ensure that the road would remain closed.

4 - Also in the early days, food vendors had to have a harvest or ethnic theme. Thus, Cheese curds were called “Czech Curds,” Corn Dogs were called “Czech Dogs,” There are still plenty of ethnic foods on hand, and as I wrote in an article back in the early 1990s, many people make it their mission to eat their way up and down Main Street.

5 - This year is the 25th Cruise Night. As Patrick Fisher wrote in an article in this year’s Dozinky Special Section, the event started with humble beginnings, with about 40 cars, and the owners would park them along Main Street at the conclusion of the cruise for people to admire. Now, with about 400 cars and thousands of people gathered in downtown, that would be impossible.

6 - One of my favorite food booths was John Schumacher’s booth and the chicken breast sandwiches he made. I remember in the early 1990s Patrick took a photo of me biting into one of these delicious sandwiches and didn’t think anything of it. Until a month later, that is, when a photo of me enjoying the sandwich was placed in The Times in an ad that said “Happy Birthday to The Times’ Official Food Critic.” Come to think of it, I vowed revenge at the time, and I still haven’t delivered on that promise…Look out this year Patrick. This year’s Dozinky is sure to bring more memories for all who attend. Enjoy!

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