A Celebration of Resilience in West,
By U.S. Sen. John
miles north of Waco lies a small Texas town with a close-knit population
of just under 3,000 residents. These Texans are proud of their
predominately Czech heritage and humble beginnings as a farming
community with a profitable railroad depot. Before April 17, 2013, few knew
of this quintessential Texas town, but after the infamous explosion of
the West Fertilizer Co. plant, the City of West no longer needs an
been a little more than four months since that tragic day, when the
nation watched the flames throughout the evening and as the sun rose on
horrific images of flattened homes and businesses and heard the news of
15 deaths, including many brave first responders who rushed to the
scene. Though the television cameras have long since packed up and moved
on and the national spotlight is no longer on West, the community
remains very much in a state of recovery. Nonprofit groups and
counseling centers are helping individuals process their loss and move
forward. Construction crews are working to rebuild homes and businesses.
Earlier this month the Kucera family moved into the first fully rebuilt
home in West.
In a year marked by tragedy and
loss, a bright spot on the horizon is an annual event that brings
together the entire community of West to celebrate their Czech heritage and
traditions: Westfest. The familiar faces, sounds and smells of this
year�s celebration are sure to make it one of the most meaningful in
the event�s history.
The Westfest planning
committee has been working since October to plan the 38thAnnual
Westfest Czech & Polka Festival, which will be hosted as it has
been in past years on Labor Day weekend, August 30 � September 1, 2013.
Traditionally drawing nearly 20,000 attendees organizers expect more
attendees than ever this year. I for one am looking forward to joining
visitors from across the state who will be attending to show our
support for this resilient community.
The event kicks
off with the Friday Night Preview Party, where guests can experience
music, dancing, food, and the Miss Westfest Contest. Saturday morning
will begin as it always has, with a parade, featuring the newly
crowned Miss Westfest, through the streets of downtown West. This
year, the parade will include a poignant tribute, as the first responders
who died at the scene of the fertilizer plant explosion will be
recognized as honorary marshals.
From the time the gates open Saturday morning, festival-goers�
senses will be inundated with Czech culture, from the sight of the West
High Junior Historian Dancers dancing to Polka music to the taste of
the traditional ethnic foods of sausage, strudel, and kolaches.
Throughout the weekend, there will be something for everyone, including a
horseshoe and washers tournament, tractor pull competition, and
During the Opening Ceremony, I will have the privilege of presenting
replacement military medals to longtime resident and former West
Intermediate School Principal, Robert Fleming. An Army veteran who served in
Operation Desert Storm, Mr. Fleming had his seven military medals
displayed in his office at the school, but all were lost in the
While Westfest is a
celebration of this town�s traditions and heritage, I�m confident this
year�s festival will also be a celebration of her future. As Texans we
know our neighbors in West are a strong people who will persevere and
emerge even stronger, and we will continue to stand with them every step
of the way.
Sources: Westfest, Waco Tribune-Herald