By Cindy Hadish
Near-record flooding in Cedar Rapids didn’t wash away Rachael Brandon’s dream to share her Czech heritage.
Rachael, 14, one of the Czech Heritage Foundation’s Czech princesses, was scheduled to be in a special event during CzechFest, but the Czech Village festival was canceled in September as floodwaters rose to near-record levels in Cedar Rapids.
Businesses and others in Czech Village and New Bohemia, as well as downtown, sandbagged and temporarily closed their doors to prepare for the flood, which crested at nearly 22 feet on Sept. 27, second in the history of Cedar Rapids only to the 31-foot crest of 2008, which devastated core neighborhoods.
This time, earthen berms and other temporary flood protection managed to hold back the swollen Cedar River for the most part, but the flooding forced the cancellation of the St. Wenceslaus Czech Goulash Day and CzechFest.
Rachael, 14, a ninth-grader and aspiring artist, had planned to share her Czech heritage by painting a sidewalk during CzechFest. While “chalk the walk” has become popular nationwide, Rachael had planned to “Czech the Walk” by painting a scene of a girl in kroj – a Czech folk costume – on the sidewalk in front of the Artisan’s Sanctuary, 45 16th Ave. SW, which partnered in the event.
Although disappointed by the cancellation, Rachael held out hope that she could someday paint her sidewalk mural. Her opportunity arose during Dožínky, a new festival in Czech Village. Dožínky, the Czech word for “after harvest,” featured live music at village restaurants and taverns, a pumpkin-carving contest, Czech polka Mass, a kolache-eating contest at Sykora Bakery, and the last-minute rescheduling of Czech the Walk.
Despite a near-constant drizzle, Rachael was able to paint her sidewalk design during Dožínky on Oct. 15. She modeled the kroj in the painting after her own kroj, which she sewed with the help of her grandmother and wears to parades, festivals and other events in which the Czech Heritage Foundation’s Royal Court participates. Rachael, who also is a Czech School student, has a passion for her Czech ancestry. Her father’s side of the family came to the United States from Moravia.
Most of the Czech Village and New Bohemia shops are back in business and Rachael was excited to be a part of the event.
“This is a dream come true,” she said.
In addition to Rachael, members of the Czech Royal Court are: Czech Princes Branden Knight and Drake Ainsworth; Czech Princess Victoria Knight; Little Sisters Ingrid Landa, MyAh Morgan and FayLyn Franks; and Little Brothers Lars Landa and Davis Robe.