Families gathered Sunday afternoon around a sun-filled grassy stage to celebrate a rich tradition in Auburn Township."Welcome to our summer DTJ exhibition," Announcer Ray Tittl…
Families gathered Sunday afternoon around a sun-filled grassy stage to celebrate a rich tradition in Auburn Township.
“Welcome to our summer DTJ exhibition,” Announcer Ray Tittl said, under a picnic pavilion to an audience on lawn chairs, picnic tables and blankets.
DTJ “Delnicke Telocvicne Jednoty” Taborville held its 88th annual Gymnastic Exhibition as an end of the year performance showcasing students’ progress throughout the year.
Taborville is 100 acres tucked away in the rolling hills of southern Geauga County with neighboring farms and claim to a strong Czech heritage.
More than 40 families and residents live year-round in the Taborville neighborhood named after the city, Tabor, located in the Czech Republic.
Tittl, a retired assistant police chief of Solon, said he moved into the neighborhood with his wife in 1980, fondly raising their three children there.
DTJ’s motto since its creation in 1897 in Czechoslovakia, (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia) is “A Sound Mind and a Healthy Body.”
“By teaching gymnastics, we are continuing the path that our ancestors started,” Organizer Bruce Marek said. “We are carrying on the tradition. Kids don’t get away from TV and Internet that much.”
Guest performers from Cleveland’s Sokol Ceska Sin on Clark Ave., a sister organization also originating in Czechoslovakia, helped highlight the exhibition for the 10th year.
The American Sokol organization continues its units or clubs in many larger cities like Chicago and New York, offering physical training in gymnastics and other athletics, as well as providing cultural awareness and family oriented activities.
Former President John F. Kennedy commended the American Sokol Movement for its part played in establishing physical fitness and good sportsmanship.
“It feels awesome because I get to be flexible,” Cassandra Shieff, 7, said, of Sokol Ceska Sin, as she sprinted back to her parents’ lawn chairs.
The nearly 90-minute program included callisthenic numbers from performers ranging in ages 3 to 76 and routines on apparatuses including a balance beam.
“Flag bearers post the colors,” Tittl said, with the American national anthem, Czech, and Slovenian being recognized with their respective flags.
Cassandra’s dad, Charles, and mother, Heather, sat chatting and munching on apples under some shade near the club house building.
The Cleveland-area family discovered the gymnastic program after fliers were sent home with their daughter from school.
Thirty-five youth and 25 adults took lessons this year in the Taborville program.
“We give them the basics,” said Kris Marek, Bruce Marek’s wife.
The nonprofit organization has fundraisers throughout the year such as July 13’s 91st Cesky Den, an olde-world festival known as “Czech Day” with polka bands and homemade food followed by Aug. 10’s 80th Obzinky “Harvest Festival” with parades and more bands.
Just inside the main building across the room from the bar, Pat Neuman lifted a ladle full of homemade Tripe soup.
“Absolutely, it’s a secret recipe,” Neuman said with a smile, proclaiming herself a veggie chopper of the soup, giving credit to many in the preparation of the traditional food offerings, which included pork sandwiches.
“Most, if not all, of the youth members and some of the adults are from Geauga County,” Bruce Marek said.
The Sokol gymnastic program is “great,” Charles Shieff said, as a red, white and blue-ribboned gymnastic medal won by his daughter dangled from his neck.
“They gain social interactions and confidence, and a little bit of competition, but not so much that it is a problem,”?he added.
Cassandra’s friend and fellow-performer, Liza Irwin, 8, bounced up and down nearby in her red leotard as Cassandra plopped down to draw a palm tree with crayons.
“I want to be an Olympic swimmer, not a gymnast,” Liza added. “But, I like being flexible, too.”
Soon, about a dozen toddlers clad in red shirts and white shorts wobbled and marched inside the flag-lined stage as parents snapped and caught video memories with phones and cameras.
Singer Jason Mraz’s lyrics, “Just know, that wherever you go, no you’re never alone, you will always get back home,” broadcast from the speakers as pint-sized “gymers” bent down and touched their toes and then twirled around with the off-stage direction of their instructor.
Applause filled the area as the youngest performers held hands with partners and paraded off stage in completion of their portion of the program.
“Some of our students’ ancestors were Czech or many parents or grandparents took classes when they were young,” Bruce Marek said. “Now they are bringing the next generations.”
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