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Celebrating Czech Day

Members of the Czech Heritage Orchestra, in back, along with Jim Geiger, accordionist, rehearse during the Ethnic Festival in Dickinson. Jim has agreed to replace Chuck Kadrmas as accordionist for the orchestra during Czech Day.

It would be unthinkable to play old-time music without an accordionist -- at least that’s how the Czech Heritage Orchestra musicians see it.

By tradition, the orchestra has been providing the music for Czech Day scheduled this year on Sunday, Sept. 17, at the Catholic Workman Hall in New Hradec. However, when their accordionist, Chuck Kadrmas died Feb. 28, the remaining musicians didn’t know what to do.

After all, Chuck had played for dances for decades, and he organized a  seven-piece orchestra to play for Czech Day.

Galen Hibl who plays trumpet with the orchestra, had worked with Jim Geiger from Mandan when they were both employed at the Midwest Motor Express.

“I was in sales and used to go to Dickinson,” said Jim. “ Galen and I  got to talking about old-time music. I said I was playing at St. Anthony Club, so he came and listened.”

Jim plays accordion with the Jim Geiger Band and the other musicians are Don Geiger and Mark Schwartz.

Then around May, Galen approached Jim, asking if he’d like to play accordion for the orchestra during Czech Day..

Being of German descent, Jim didn’t think it could be that much different. Galen gave Jim a CD with their music to learn, and that’s when Jim discovered their music was indeed different. He’s been practicing the music by ear ever since. In addition, Galen met with Jim  to rehearse twice and is coming a third time.

“If we can play together, I know the other guys can fit in,” said Galen.

The other musicians include Dustin Hibl, Kim Kadrmas (Chuck’s son), Cody Woehl, Keith Kadrmas and Ed Kadrmas.

Three of the orchestra members, including Galen, played with Jim and his band during the Northern Plains Ethnic Festival in Dickinson.

“I told the crowd what they will hear is a public practice -- that’s exactly what happened it went pretty well,” said Galen.

With Chuck missing from the orchestra, the musicians feel they have pretty big shoes to fill; but at the same time, they wanted to continue a tradition he started years ago.

Jim is excited to play during Czech Day, and he’s heard the food is fabulous.

“We’re going to try to keep it going, and if we do well, we’ll do it again in 2018,” Galen added.

Czech Day dance and entertainment starts at 1 p.m., and the meal will be served at 5 p.m. The menu includes chicken noodle soup, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, pigs in the blanket, chicken hotdish, rice and giblets, coleslaw, fruit salad, corn, kolache and rohliky.

And just like Jim Geiger, everyone is invited to become a Czech for a day.