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Lauren Rezac

East Butler High School graduate Lauren Rezac poses for a photo in a traditional Czech Kroj. The 20 year old is preparing to compete during the June 29 Miss Nebraska Czech-Slovak Queen competition being held in Clarkson. Three of this year's six contestants are from Butler County.

Miss Nebraska Czech-Slovak Queen Pageant Co-Director Deb Vocasek said she believes that events really came full-circle when her daughter, Stefanie, was crowned winner at the state competition held in 2009.

Vocasek, a Crete native, noted how her daughter was riding around on Czech queen floats by the time she was 3 in the Wilber area and how she eventually rode one as a Nebraska Czech queen before being crowned Miss Czech Slovak U.S.

“We had her on a Czech queen float when she was just a little girl and then low and behold she won national Czech queen out of Lincoln,” Vocasek said during an interview with The Banner-Press.

This year, three of the six competitors in the Miss Nebraska Czech-Slovak Queen pageant hail from Butler County. Each of the competitors is representing one of the 11 Czech heritage clubs located around the State of Nebraska.

Rebecca Rerucha is representing Nebraska Czechs of Butler County; Dwight native Adeline Brecka is representing the Nebraska Czechs of Prague and Dwight Native Lauren Rezac is representing the Nebraska Czechs of Dwight. They will square off against competitors from Clarkson, Wilber and Lincoln during the Miss Nebraska Czech-Slovak Queen pageant, set for June 29 during the three-day-long Clarkson Czech Festival.

The pageant, Vocasek said, is a precursor to the Miss Czech-Slovak U.S. pageant held the first full weekend of August in Wilber.

“We get anywhere from five to 10 applicants typically from each of those chapters,” Vocasek said. “They have the chance to represent that chapter and Clarkson is the site for the state competition. The winner of that acts as Nebraska queen for a year and then when she turns over her crown on June 29 she will be able to run for a national spot at the contest in Wilber.”

Rezac, a 20-year-old East Butler High School Graduate, is looking forward to her inaugural debut at the pageant.

“This is the first time I’ve done it,” she said. “I was the Dwight Czech princess when I was 12, and at the time they never had a queen so I thought that it would be cool to compete in one of these types of pageants someday. They get to do parades and fun things like that so I thought that it would be fun to take the opportunity.”

For several months, Rezac and her counterparts have been completing extensive preparation leading up to the competition that features a private interview, public oratory interview, Kroj (Czech costume) presentation and a talent presentation.

Cash prizes are awarded to the top candidate in each category and this year’s Miss Nebraska Czech-Slovak Queen winner will be crowned by 2018 winner Lydia Rosno. Stefanie Vocasek will serve as emcee for the event.

Not only does the time leading up to the competition serve as a way for competitors to prepare for the actual pageant, but it’s also a great time for them to connect with their Czech-Slovak heritage and roots.

“We try to get them to talk to their grandparents; they are full of history and you can learn so many things about the way things used to be by talking to them,” Vocasek said. “They can talk about their lineage and coming back from Czechoslovakia. Many turned to homesteading and sent money back to the rest of their family to get them over here, too.”

Many competitors cherish these conversations with their older relatives, she said. One pageant entrant from a previous year was presented an accordion from her grandfather when she was 4 – he hoped she would hold onto the family heirloom created in the old European country.

Rezac said that she and her mother spent a fair share of time researching her family background.

“We did a lot of genealogy stuff and looked up a lot about our ancestors,” the University of Nebraska at Kearney student said. “It was fun doing that with her (mom) and learning more about family history, and I guess it also just gave me a broad picture of where I came from and some of the skills and traits that I’ve gained from my ancestors.”

Now, Rezac is really just ready to take all of this preparation and translate it into action.

“I’m definitely nervous because a lot of these girls have been preparing for a year and I was actually just asked to do this three or four months ago,” she said. “But it is really exciting because I have put in a lot of work, so I just want to see where that will get me.”

Other Butler County Czech-Slovak Queen representatives were contacted for this article but did not respond for comment by The Banner-Press' print deadline.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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