Czech and Slovak Museum Opens With Celebration

Charity Barker, 14, (facing camera) dances with other members of the music and dance group Svetlusky during the grand opening for the new National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library on Saturday, July 14, 2012, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)

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By Max Walker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Just for a moment, it looked like a storm might dampen Saturday morning’s festivities during the reopening of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.

“Is it raining?” museum president and CEO Gail Naughton asked a crowd estimated in the thousands, as a few drops of rain sprinkled the ground. “Well, maybe that’s good today.”

A downpour later developed after the speeches, but those rain drops, and the July heat, didn’t dampen Naughton’s spirits.

“I’m energized,” she said, shortly after the museum opened its doors to a flood of visitors. More than 5,000 people were counted in the first 15 minutes alone. “This is the fun part. We need to celebrate.”

The celebration was four years in the making. The museum was inundated with at least eight feet of floodwater in June 2008.

Last summer, the 17,000-square-foot building was moved from the banks of the Cedar River to higher ground in Czech Village on 16th Avenue SW.

An addition was built, bringing the museum to 50,000 square feet.

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), along with public officials from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, addressed the visitors from the steps of the museum.

“There is no doubt that it would overcome the challenges,” Grassley said. “The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library is one of Iowa’s great cultural treasures.”

The opening ceremony followed a Parade of States Pageant that went through New Bohemia in southeast Cedar Rapids, across the river into Czech Village.

Seven countries and 18 states were represented in the parade, with many participants wearing kroje, or ethnic costumes.

Events continue throughout the day with tours of the museum and exhibits, including the work of Alphonse Mucha.

Musical performances, food and drink are outdoors under tents, and Czech Village and New Bohemia restaurants are open throughout the weekend.

A gypsy jazz performance by Caravan of Thieves and a light show highlighted Saturday night’s events.

The Pageant of States and ribbon cutting ceremony will re-air on KCRG 9.2 Saturday July 21st at 12:00pm.

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