ENNIS – Ennis city and business leaders welcomed Karel Schwarzenberg, Czech Republic first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, to the community early Saturday morning. The welcoming gathering, held at the historic Wood House, was the first stop for Schwarzenberg and the delegation accompanying him on his visit to the Lone Star State.

The visitors from the Czech Republic were met by Mayor Russell Thomas and Czech Republic Honorary Consulate Ray Snokhaus, with a brief news conference held on the front porch as part of a documentary being made about Schwarzenberg’s visit.

During the conference he was asked what he hoped to accomplish, with Schwarzenberg saying, “I did not come with an agenda other than to be a part of the festivities held today.” He went on to say he was very thankful to the people and the city for inviting him and was grateful for their hospitality.

The Czech delegation, which included several of the country’s other prime ministers, continued its visit inside the historic home owned by Sam and Joann Ventura. The guests included city officials and business leaders from throughout the area.

The welcoming was the first stop for the Czech delegation, with Schwarzenberg later honored as the parade grand marshal for the 45th annual National Polka Festival.

After the parade, Schwarzenberg was officially welcomed to the city with a proclamation presented by Thomas during the festival’s opening ceremonies.

Five Ennis area World War II veterans also were recognized during the ceremony as Schwarzenberg presented each with his country’s highest military medal for their participation in the liberation of and post-war efforts in Czechoslovakia during World War II.