ENNIS – The National Polka Festival welcomes Karel Schwarzenberg, Czech Republic first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, to this year’s festival.

Honored as the grand marshal of the festival’s parade, Schwarzenberg will take part in the opening ceremonies, during which time he will recognize five veterans who served under U.S. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army in the liberation of Czechoslovakia in World War II. Schwarzenberg and the dignitaries traveling with him will then visit the three Czech and fraternal halls, with meet-and-greet sessions at each.

Schwarzenberg is the third-highest ranking member in the Czech Republic government, with the visit to Ennis, Texas, part of his first official trip to the state of Texas, where stops also are slated for Fort Worth and Houston.

While the city of Ennis has received a number of dignitaries through the years, polka festival organizers said Schwarzenberg is the most premier Czech official to date to have attended the community’s annual celebration of its Czech culture and heritage, now in its 45th year.

“It’s a great honor,” said Robert Podhrasky, a member of the North Texas Czech Organizing Committee for the Deputy Prime Minister, which has been working since the first of the year to finalize details for Schwarzenberg’s appearance.

“This is a very prestigious visit,” he said. “There’s a great interest in creating better relations (between the Czech Republic and the United States). They want to get out amongst the people.”

Attending also as dignitaries from the Czech Republic government and its embassy to the United States will be Petr Gandalovic, ambassador; Katerina Weissova, director of the Minister’s Cabinet; Vitezslav Grepi, director general; Katerina Lukesova, director of the American Department; Martin Dvorak, director of Bilateral Economic Relations; Vit Kolar, press secretary; Daniel Kostoval, chargé d´affaires of the embassy in Washington, D.C.; and Josef Dvoracek, economic and commercial counselor at the embassy.

Also accompanying the delegation will be Raymond Snokhouse, honorary consul to the Czech Republic for Texas, who has served as the organizing committee’s chairman in the effort to secure Schwarzenberg’s appearance at the National Polka Festival as part of his visit to Texas.

“This visit to Texas is an opportunity for him to promote trade and development and to meet with people,” Snokhouse said. “Meeting with the people is critically important to him.”

Veterans to be

recognized

As part of the opening ceremonies, five veterans who participated in the liberation of Czechoslovakia in World War II as soldiers in the Third Army (U.S.) will receive plaques, as presented by Schwarzenberg. The honorees include Hugo W. Gorgas of Elm Mott, Willie F. Laza of Ennis, Anton V. Rejcek of West, Charlie J. Tomek of Cameron and Benjamin F. Zajicek of Cameron.

After the opening ceremonies, which include the singing of the Czech and U.S. national anthems, the delegation will make stops at the KJT Auditorium, Knights of Columbus Hall and Sokol Activity Center, with the latter including a visit through the Sokol’s Czech Heritage Museum, before the group departs for Fort Worth.

Contact JoAnn at joann@wninews.com or 469-517-1452.