Sokol Slets in America
Slets (Festivals, Gatherings) Came to America with the Czech Immigrants
- The first 5 competitions did not include the typical Slet formats, since there were no mass field displays.
The number of competitors ranged from 19 to 131 and the contests were in New York (1879), Detroit (1881), Chicago (1884), New York (1887), and Milwaukee (1891).
- Two of the founding 10 clubs were from Chicago (Gymnastic Unit Sokol in Chicago, and Sokol Czech American) and two were from Cedar Rapids (Sokol Tyrš, and Sokol Club Cedar Rapids). The other six were: Sokols New York, Blesk in Baltimore, St Louis, Budivoj in Detroit, Czech-American in Kewaunee WI, and Cech in Cleveland.
Sokol Slet in Conjunction with the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair
This event brought into focus the Sokol movement in the US, due to the large exposure gained from Sokol events, e.g., various displays, a parade through the streets of Chicago, gymnastic competitions (194 men) and mass calisthenic performances (1,003 men, women and juniors), as well as the participation of the Czech Sokols.
Fair’s Grand Basin and Court of Honor
Sokol boys and girls performing at the Slet
Sokol Participation in 1893 World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition: Recognition for Czech Immigrants and the Sokol Movement
- National Heritage Chronicles described this event as “the most magnificent demonstration of National awareness of a Czech Colony in America.”
- As seen in the photo, 20,000 paraded in the streets of Chicago. Antonín Dvorak directed a concert featuring Czech music.
- This Sokol Slet was the first to include a significant number of gymnasts performing mass calisthenics.
VII National Union Slet: 1900, Cleveland
- Participants (a total of 715): 225 men, 115 women, 125 junior boys, 115 junior girls and 135 children.
- Gymnastics competitors: 119 men.
- By 1900 there were 34 Sokol Clubs in the National Union Sokol, although all did not participate in this Slet. The growth of Sokol in America was evident by the turn of the century.
- The poster on this page advertises the German Cruise Line that was available for Czechs traveling to America at the time of the VII Slet.
VIII National Union Sokol Slet: St Louis 1904
- Participants: 700 men, women, juniors and children.
- Gymnastic competitors: 197 men and 66 women (women competed for the first time in a national Slet).
IX National Union Sokol Slet
(Gathering or Festival) 1909, Chicago
- National Union Sokol (Národní Jedota Sokolská), established in 1878, was the first national Sokol organization in America. In 1917 it became the American Sokol Organization.
- Total number of participants at the 1909 Slet: 1,402 men, women, juniors, children.
- The number of participants at this National Union Sokol Slet was double the number of the previous Slet held in 1904 and is indicative of the growth of the Sokol movement in the US.
1909 IX American Sokol Slet in Chicago
National Union Sokol Slet in 1909 held in Chicago
1914 National Union Slet held in Omaha
- 350 men and women competitors.
- 750 men, women, juniors and children participated.
- This was the last National Union Slet to be held, because the American Sokol Organization became the national governing body and held its first Slet in 1921.
- This year marked the start of World War I in Europe; Czech Sokol was banned during this war and then reinstated in the new Czechoslovak Republic in 1918.
Second Slovak Sokol Slet (Trenton, NJ) in 1910
- The first Slovak Sokol was not established until 1893, and there were none is Slovakia until 1918.
- In 1893 a Slovak Sokol was established in New York, with encouragement from Sokol New York and the use of their instructor.
- A central Slovak Sokol organization (Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol) was formed in 1896.
- The first Slet was held in 1906 with 223 gymnasts from 12 clubs participating.
- During the next 10 years four National Slets were held.
Slovak Sokol Slet in 1916: Celebration of Twenty Years of Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol (later Sokol USA)
1919 Homestead PA
1922 Bethlehem PA
1926 Bridgeport CT
1930 Binghamton NY
1946 New Kensington PA
1950 New York
1969 Flushing, NY
First Slet of the American Sokol Organization
- Held in The Coliseum in Chicago in 1921 (four years after the organization was established).
- 1356 seniors and juniors participated in the calisthenic displays and 466 competed in gymnastics.
First American Sokol Organization Slet (Chicago, 1921)
Second American Sokol Slet (1925) Soldier Field, Chicago
1925 American Sokol Organization Slet II in Chicago’s Soldier Field
Women assembled for calisthenic drill
(photo from American Sokol Organization Archives)
Chicago’s Mayor Antonin Cermak, seated in his office, welcomes the Czech Sokol delegation to the city for the 1929 American Sokol Slet
1929 American Sokol Slet III: Chicago’s Soldier Field
1933 Sokol Slet IV in conjunction with the World’s Fair in Chicago
1933 American Sokol Slet in Chicago’s Soldier Field
1933 Sokol Slet:
1937 American Sokol Slet: Calisthenic Drill by Junior Girls and Boys; A total of 2,900 gymnasts participated and 791 competed.
1937 American Sokol Slet Chicago’s Soldier Field
1941 American Sokol Slet (VI)
1941 American Sokol Slet (VI) in Soldier Field, Chicago
1941 American Sokol Slet
- Number of competitors: 625 women, 440 men, 267 junior girls and 169 junior boys.
- American Sokol Slet co-sponsored with Federation of American Sokols.
American Sokol Organization Slet (VII) in Chicago’s Soldier Field, 1947
1947 American Sokol Slet in Chicago’s Soldier Field
1953 VIII American Sokol Organization Slet
1953 American Sokol Organization Slet in Chicago’s Soldier Field
1953 American Sokol Organization Slet in Chicago’s Solider Field
Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol (SGUS) Slets of the 1950s
- Three SGUS Slets were held during this decade. In 1950 New York was the site of the first post-war Slet.
- In 1954 the Slet was in Chicago’s Soldier Field and was the last Slet held in that stadium. Because of the many ASO clubs in the Chicago area, participation of the Slet included many Sokols from these clubs.
- The 1958 Slet in Cleveland, also with many participants, was held in a large auditorium.
IX American Sokol Organization Slet in 1957 with 1,528 participants of which over 1,000 competed in gymnastics
1957 IX ASO Slet in Morton Stadium, Berwyn IL
X American Sokol Slet in 1961 in Berwyn IL
Anticipating 1962 and 100 years of Sokol Gymnastics
- 2,253 participants
- 1,284 gymnastic competitors
- for the first time junior competitors outnumbered seniors
- Gymnastic Open Championship: Sokols and Non-Sokols
1961 Slet, Berwyn IL
XI American Sokol Slet:1965, Berwyn IL
- The 2,340 participants were the most since the Slet of 1941.
- 1,321 (56%) of the participants competed in gymnastics. Women competitors outnumbered men.
Sokol Gymnastic Association of Canada and Expo 1967 in Montreal
1969 XII American Sokol Slet in Berwyn IL
American Sokol Slet at Morton West High School, Berwyn IL, 1969
1969 American Sokol Slet (Morton Stadium, Berwyn IL)
- This Slet included 1,748 participants.
- Of the 643 competing in gymnastics, 497 (77%) were juniors; only 54 men and 84 women competed. This was a major change from previous Slet competitions when senior competitors outnumbered juniors.
- Subsequent Slets were also characterized by the data that the number of juniors competing far out numbered the seniors.
1973 XIII Slet Berwyn, IL
- 1,328 participants
- Senior competitors: 112 women; 61 men
- Junior competitors: 478 girls; 172 boys.
- 82 dancers
XIV. American Sokol Slet (1977) Berwyn, IL
- 44 volleyball teams
- 12 special numbers
- 23 golf competitors
- 230 folk dancers
- 1,750 in Slet parade
1981 XV Slet in Ft. Worth
Gymnastic competitions at ASO XV. National Slet 1981
XVI and XVII Slets
1985 Berwyn, IL
- 1,600 participants
- 589 competitors in artistic gymnastics
- 32 competed in rhythmic gymnastics
- 1,190 participants
- 402 in artistic gymnastics
- 29 in rhythmic gymnastics
1993 XVIII ASO Slet, Berwyn IL
Looking Back100 Years
1993 XVIII ASO Slet
- 1,469 participants.
- 581 competed in artistic gymnastics and 71 in rhythmic gymnastics.
- The number of participants and the number in the next Slet (1997) represented sustainability in participation. Beginning in 2001, Slet participation dropped by an average of 50%.
- Souvenir plate featuring young gymnasts on the balance beam.
The 1997 Chicagoland Slet was the last with a substantial number of participants (1,404), a similar number to the 1993 Slet.
- 497 competed in artistic gymnastics
- 45 competed in rhythmic gymnastics
First Two Slets of the 21st Century
XX Slet in Detroit
- 604 participants
- competitors: 350 artistic gymnastics; 33 rhythmic gymnastics
XXI Slet in Oak Brook (Greater Chicago)
- 950 participants
- competitors: 369 artistic gymnastics; 45 rhythmic gymnastics
XXII Sokol Slet in Ft. Worth in 2009
Postcard for XXII Slet in Fort Worth (by Czech artist, Milan Med )
2009 American Sokol Slet in Ft. Worth: Display of Tyrš Bust and Other Items
- 620 participants
- 231 competed in artistic gymnastics.
- Rhythmic gymnastic competition was not held.