Descendants of Duncan’s Czechoslovakian ancestors descended upon Duncan last weekend, along with many others, for its June 12 and long-awaited 120-year celebration.
All ages participated in a myriad of events that were free for participants, including an antique tractor and car show, outdoor games and disc jockey, mass at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, bands and dancing in the Duncan ballroom where there was also viewing of the Czechoslovakia map with the ancestral history of Duncan’s founding families, and a kolache-eating contest. A kolache is a popular Czech pastry made of sweet bread and fruit filling.
“It was a combined celebration of 120 years as the town and the original church (founding) are about the same age,” said Eric Malek, who is one of five planning committee members that spearheaded efforts for nearly two years to make the day possible. “Probably about 100 volunteers helped in some form. We were actually a little more prepared having an extra year to get ready.”
Duncan’s 120th year of its founding was actually last year in 2020, but COVID-19 pushed the celebration plans back to this year.
By 1900, both the unincorporated Hancock County community and its first church were established with the first church being wooden and replaced by a brick church around the 1930s before a tornado devastated most of the town in 1951. The existing Catholic Church was completed at the same location in 1952.
“The town was full,” said Melvin Wellik of the planning committee. “We were overloaded, but the whole day went great. There was a big demand for food. We went through 1,000 hamburgers and 300 hot dogs, but nobody left hungry. We had 150-dozen kolaches that were gone quickly. We should have had another 150 dozen.”
Other planning committee members were Dawn Nedved, Sally Hejlik, and Bob Malek. Duncan T-shirts with various humorous Czech slogans sold out quickly, so committee members took names to order more and will get everyone the shirts they want.
“After we ran out of burgers, we went and bought natural casing hot dogs that are an old Duncan tradition,” Malek said. “After church, the people here would go to Falad’s store and take them home to their families.”
Malek said it was amazing to see so many familiar faces not seen in Duncan for years, not just on June 12, but also in the days leading up to and following the celebration.
“There were many family reunions,” Malek said. “Even the week before, people were coming home. They were visiting the cemetery, church, and ballroom. It was people that grew up in Duncan and around Duncan.”
Both Malek and Wellik agreed that residents from at least 15 states across the country, maybe more, participated in Duncan’s big day. They were also coming from all across Iowa.
One such family was Melanie and Greg Smith of Urbandale with their children, 4-year-old Lia and 5-year-old Ben. Greg Smith explained that his family’s connection to the Duncan area is that his mother is a Nedved.
Duncan was actually first platted in 1899 with the first settlers coming as early as the 1870s, according to Malek. The permanent display in the ballroom shows the Czech history of each Duncan founding family, including where they lived in Czechoslovakia before their journeys to America and Duncan.
The DJ for the day was Duncan native and Garner resident Randy Formanek, who donated his time for his home community. Brad and Karen Connor oversaw a raffle that sold 1,000 tickets at $20 apiece. Those proceeds will be used for maintaining and improving the Duncan ballroom.
A parade lasted about 30 minutes, featuring many community treasures, including Malek's Band and Catholic Workmen that maintain the Duncan ballroom.
Leo and Gert Wellik, both 87 years old, were honored as Grand Marshalls of the 120-year Duncan Fest celebration and parade.
“They have been residents of Duncan for their whole lives,” Melvin Wellik said. “They always support Duncan and are always there to help, which is the reason.”
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at email@example.com.