Chicago resident Jim Strnad has been attending the DTJ Taborville community’s Harvest Festival, or Obzinky, in Auburn Township for many years. “I’m Czech and I love the food, the beer and the people,” he said.
He grew up in Cleveland and his father, Stanley, played the accordion at DTJ. “I’ve been coming here since a child. We played all over here, including in the creek,” Mr. Strnad said.
“I got here at 11 o’clock in the morning and I talked for two hours to everybody,” he said of his long drive for the Auburn fest this past weekend. “I wouldn’t miss the Czech dinner and the pickles.” Pickles and garlic are handed out and are a favorite with the crowd. “You’ve got to get a pickle,” he said.
Mr. Strnad, 75, a veteran from the Vietnam War era, was one of many veterans at the event.
The bands on Sunday played Czech music including polkas that induced impromptu dancing on the grass. Festival-goers also enjoyed Czech delights at the picnic tables on the lawn.
Melissa Gardner, a Taborville resident and chief cook for the event, said volunteers created 300 pork dinners, 300 goulash dinners as well as tripe soup. Some people order just dumplings and sauerkraut, she said.
“We start making dumplings on Thursday and on Friday we start prepping and roasting the pork. On Saturday, we do the soup,” she said. “There are 10 or 12 people on the dumpling crew, six working on Friday and 12 to 14 people on Saturday. Some work all three days and on Sunday,” she noted of the Aug. 11 event. “Everything is homemade and the soup is from scratch.”
Ms. Gardner has lived in Taborville at Quinn and Bartholomew roads for 15 years in her grandparents’ house. Her grandparents, Kristina and Joseph Buchal, bought their property in the 1920s. It was originally their summer home, as it was for most of the early residents of the Taborville community.
Ms. Gardner runs the kitchen for all the events including club functions and the annual clambake. She is also the chief gymnastics instructor at DTJ. The gymnastic activities start in September and are scheduled through May. Participants are ages 3 to 83, she said.
She is also editor of the club newsletter and serves as president of the homeowners’ association.
Parade draws crowd
The Harvest Festival’s parade draws enthusiastic onlookers who line the roadway. Last Sunday’s parade began at the community lake and was led by Geauga County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tom Rowan.
Among the parade participants were Auburn firefighter Mike Cardaman and Auburn resident Carl Schneider who was driving his large tractor and tooting the horn.
Riding in the parade were State Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chester, and her husband Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Tim Grendell. Auburn Fiscal Officer Fred May and Auburn Trustee Mike Troyan also participated in the event.
The Pickle Wagon distributed the popular pickles and garlic to the crowd.
Nearby, Bill Takacs of Bainbridge sat in the shade enjoying the polka music. He noted that his grandfather Steve Koteles bought 200 acres of farmland adjacent to Taborville off Quinn Road. Mr. Takacs’ mother Ann met her future husband Louis while picking blackberries at the site.
“I’ve been coming to this event for years,” Mr.Takacs said. He recalled how he got caught skinny dipping in the Taborville Lake one night back in the 1950s.
Louis Sounik, 94, has attended the DTJ harvest festival for years. He bought 100 acres of the land from the Takacs family in 1966 and built 40 to 50 houses at the site, he said.
Of Bohemian descent, he loves the harvest festival. “It’s hospitable and friendly. I met my wife Rose while dancing in the DTJ hall,” Mr. Sounik said. They were married 68 years, he said, adding, “We loved dancing the polka.”
Bruce Marek, who has coordinated the event for 29 years, said the event is in its 85th year. “It has been a good crowd, and we couldn’t get better weather.”
He is president of the DTJ District Council and oversees bookings of the hall. “I basically married into this,” he said, noting his wife Kris Marek, sister of Melissa Gardner, is deeply involved with DTJ Taborville.
The community started as a fresh air camp, and was created when those of Czech descent bought two 50-acre parcels that were farms. The founders lived in the Buckeye Road and Mount Pleasant area of Cleveland.
Taborville was a place to participate in gymnastics, and in the mid-1930s, they held the first Workers Olympiad, which the president of Czechoslovakia attended. DTJ refers to Workers Gymnastic Union. Taborville is named after the city of Tabor in the Czech Republic.
“Taborville is the best kept secret in Geauga County,” Mr. Marek said. “We were here before Auburn Township had zoning.” Families built summer cottages and would come out on Fridays in their Model A and Model T cars when many of the main roads were gravel.
They would work around their yards, and on Saturdays they sat until dark socializing and enjoying the company of others and then drove back to Cleveland on Sunday. Now, residents live there year round.
Mrs. Marek said her grandparents came from 104th Street in Cleveland in 1925 when they bought the property. Her sister, Melissa Gardner, still lives there today.
DTJ Taborville’s next big event is the annual DTJ clambake on Sept. 22 from 1-3 p.m.