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Almost five months ago, an explosion from a fertilizer plant rocked West, causing injuries, devastation to nearby homes and casualties. In spite of the tragedy that took place, president of Westfest John Hurtick said the hosts of Westfest still want to focus on the celebration aspect of the event.
“We’re very mindful of what has happened in West and what’s going on,” Hurtick said. “There’s a lot of rebuilding and we will certainly be mindful and remember those persons that were affected and those who lost their lives or lost their homes. We will have a brief moment of silence during our opening ceremony in honor of them. Westfest has and always will be about the celebration of the Czech heritage of our community and we want to keep it that way.”
The festival kicks off on Friday with a preview party. Before the music performances start, Miss Westfest will be crowned. At 8 p.m., the party features performances by the Cody Johnson Band and at 10 p.m. the Turnpike Troubadours play. According to the Westfest official website, this is the only time anything other than Polka music will be played.
Friday night is the only time discount carnival armbands will be available for purchase. The armbands give people access to every carnival ride for $20. They are valid from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday only.
The following morning begins at 10 a.m., with a parade through downtown West.
According to the website, the Westfest parade is one of the largest in Central Texas.
“I really do like the parade,” Hurtick said. “It is a real unique experience. We have a lot people come for our parade and it’s really a joy for me to see all the young children and their excitement about the parade and what’s going on.”
West junior Marissa Marak was one of those excited children watching the parade. She said has attended Westfest every year since she can remember and plans to attend this year as well.
“I have been going to Westfest for as long as I can remember,” Marak said. “It was my dream to be in the parade and one year I finally made it. My T-ball team made like 3rd in state and we got to be in the parade.”
The morning also features the Kolache 5000 Challenge in which contestants run a three-mile course. The line up begins at 8 a.m. and the price of admission covers a t-shirt, kolaches and other refreshments after the run, and free admission to Westfest on Sunday.
Saturday afternoon will feature various events such as tractor and big rig pull contests, a kolache baking contest, karaoke, horseshoes and washer pitching.
In addition, helicopter rides are available each day of the festival for an additional charge.
The food is commemorative of Czech culture. Czech sausage, beer bread sandwiches, sausage dogs, and more are available for purchase and ready to be covered in mustard and sauerkraut. Kolaches will also be available in multiple flavors and styles.
Hurtick said while it was a tragedy, the explosion in West did put the city in public view and hopes this may draw more people to the festival.
“It’s a real eye opening experience to see the outpouring of relief and the help came,” Hurtick said. “We’re very grateful for that and we want to go forward. West is a very resilient community and a lot of good people are looking to what happened as an opportunity to grow stronger.”