A delegation of Friends of Slovakia (FOS) board members led by chairman Scott N. Thayer traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to participate in events celebrating the 25th anniversary of the building dedication of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library (NCSML). In addition to Mr. Thayer the FOS visitors included Kenneth J. Bombara, vice chairman, and board members Martina Hrvolová, Peter Muzila, and Thomas W. Skladony.
Dr. Cecilia Rokusek, president and CEO of the NCSML, welcomed the Washington visitors, saying, “I am thrilled that so many of my fellow FOS board members are with us for this very special weekend, and I am especially grateful that Ambassador Radovan Javorčík made time in his busy schedule to join us here in Cedar Rapids.”
The original dedication took place on October 21, 1995, with the participation of Bill Clinton, U.S. president; Václav Havel, president of the Czech Republic; and Michal Kováč, president of the Slovak Republic. That historic visit of three sitting presidents to Cedar Rapids drew an estimated outdoor crowd of 10,000, according to news accounts at the time.
The official program began on Friday night, September 17 with BrewNost, an outdoor food-and-drink festival featuring beer, wine, and spirits from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Germany, and England, as well as numerous offerings from the Iowa craft brewing community.
Events on Saturday, September 18 included the opening of an exhibition of Slovak and Moravian headdresses curated by Helene Cincebeaux, the screening of a film depicting one woman’s attempt to uncover her Slovak heritage and identity, a discussion of the current visual art scene in Slovakia, and the premiere of a piano work by young composer Jacob Berenek written especially for the NCSML. Dr. Rokusek and a large group of VIP guests also performed a ceremonial ribbon cutting to open a major new NCSML exhibition entitled “Treasures of Slovakia,” featuring priceless artifacts from the collections of the Slovak National Museum in Bratislava that had never before left the country.
Capping the busy day on Saturday was a well-attended gala dinner that included congratulatory video messages from Bill Clinton, former U.S. president; Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. secretary of state; Ivan Korčok, foreign minister of the Slovak Republic; Bořek Lizec, ambassador of the Czech Republic to Canada; Vít Koziak, ambassador of the Slovak Republic to Canada, among others. Delivering in-person remarks were Slovak Ambassador Radovan Javorčík, Czech Ambassador Hynek Kmoníček, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa), and local dignitaries.
Several of the Washington visitors also made a brief visit to nearby Iowa City, where they toured the campus of the University of Iowa and attended a tailgate party before the Big-10 Iowa-Kent State football matchup on September 18. “We have nothing like this at all in our colleges in Slovakia,” Martina Hrvolová told Bruce Teague, mayor of Iowa City, at the Grateful Garage Tailgate across the street from Iowa’s 69,250-seat Kinnick Stadium. “This is an absolutely amazing experience for a Slovak like me and I am so glad I got to see this!”