WILBER – For the first time since 1999, the Miss Czech-Slovak U.S. National Pageant winner is from the State of Oklahoma.
Madeline Hecker was crowned the queen at the 31st annual pageant, held in Wilber near the close of the 56th Annual National Wilber Czech Festival. Hecker performed a clarinet solo in the final night of competition among ten contestants, at Wilber’s Outdoor Theatre. She takes over the crown from 2016 pageant winner, Michaela Steager.
The first runner-up was Emily Manning, the Missouri Czech Queen, while second runner-up honors went to the Kansas Czech Queen, Sara Vytlacil. The congeniality award went to Illinois Czech Queen, Laura Chemler.
The winner of the grand talent competition was Bailey Gare, of Minnesota.
The award for authentic costume was presented to Sary Vytlacil…with the Americanized costume award going to the pageant winner, Madeline Hecker.
A co-founder of the pageant, John Fiala, was recognized by the Nebraska Czechs Inc. last night…with the Dr. Vladimer Kucera award. Fiala, his late wife Lois and Doris Ourecky founded the national queen pageant in 1986, selecting Wilber as home to the pageant.
:25 “U.S. pageant”
The pageant was first held on a portable stage next to the Saline County Courthouse, but moved to the town’s Outdoor Theatre in 1993. Each year, it features representatives of Czech organizations from several states.
The Czech Festival was highlighted by parades both Saturday and Sunday, with Nebraska Secretary of State, John Gale, serving as Grand Marshal. Untypical, mild weather with temperatures in the low 70’s brought out huge weekend attendance for the cultural festival.