Looking foward to a sausage kolache when West, Texas, rebuilds

The nice, quaint little town of West, Texas, literally blew up last night leaving between 5 and 15 people dead, according to police. Homes and businesses near a downtown fertilizer plant which exploded were flattened with many burned from intense fire. TV reports indicate authorities continue to sift through debris in hopes of finding those missing. Nearly 200 people were injured.

I visited West a number of time when I lived near Waco. It is a distinct village of a couple thousand., many of whom are of the Czech heritage. Czech and German settlers began to call the area home that lay about 16 miles north of Waco after the Civil War. The town today, or at least prior to the explosion, features a number of Czech restaurants and specialty shops which sell Czech merchandise. The Czech Stop, a convenience store facing Interstate 35, is a favorite stop for those driving between Dallas and Austin. The store’s many kolaches are well-known — probably through word of mouth — if the constantly packed parking lot is any indicator Fortunately, Czech Stop is open all day as it has been for almost three decades. And they are doing major business.

Each year during the Labor Day weekend the town celebrates its Czech heritage with a weekend-long celebration, Westfest. Among its highlights are concerts and dances in a huge tent with most of the sounds of the Czech, German and Polish variety. The music and beer drinking doesn’t seem to date itself because you will see young and old alike doing Polka like crazy. One of the favorites each year is the Grammy-winning Brave Combo. The Denton, Texas, combo characterizes its music as “Nuclear Polka,” which is a lively cross genre, mostly adding rock and country to the old tunes.

I’ve gone to Westfest both on assignment and on my own. It is always a high-wire act of the kind one finds with German, Czech and similar ethnic festivals. I can say that Westfest is quite tame compared with Wurstfest, the German sausage festival held in late October-early November in New Braunfels, down I-35 between Austin and San Antonio. However, being Labor Day weekend when Westfest takes place, one can guarantee the weather will be hotter than hell and the beer will be cold. Once folks get tipsy and starts polka dancing, it’s all good in West, Texas.

I don’t know many people in West. I do know a few though, and they’re good ol’ Czech-Tex folks. I hope they are safe. Likewise for some of my former colleagues from several different news agencies that are on the scene. I look forward to West rebuilding and stopping in someday in the future for a sausage kolache and perhaps a polka or two.

For the most up-to-date and thorough coverage of the West explosion, follow these links:

Waco Tribune-Herald, www.wacotrib.com

The Dallas Morning News, www.dallasnews.com

WFAA-TV, www.wfaa.com

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, www.star-telegram.com




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