Birmingham Festival celebrates ‘strong ethnic neighborhood’Written by Chase Will | | email@example.com
The 40th annual Birmingham Ethnic Festival will welcome home participants from Hungary, Italy and across the world.
“Everyone talks about coming home for festival, so we decided it would be a good theme” said Betsy Ujvagi, who organizes the festival.
The weekend-long celebration calls attention to the rich ethnic heritage of Consaul Street, which was nearly demolished in the 1970s.
“Forty years ago there was a proposed overpass which would’ve knocked down all the buildings on one side of the street,” Ujvagi said. “A lot of people in the neighborhood came together to stop that from happening, and they all wanted Toledo to know they’re there, so they started the festival to talk about the cultural lifestyle.”
This will be the first trip to America for several international participants. A group of these guests will tour Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.
One newcomer is folk artist Izbeki Gabriella Cseuz, who will teach traditional embroidery of the Hungary’s Southern Great Plain. Cseuz will also bring an exhibition of folk art from Algy? and Csongrad County artists.
The festival’s unofficial kickoff will be the 19th annual waiters race set for 7 p.m. Aug. 15. Teams of four are challenged to carry trays with full pitchers and glasses of beer as quickly as they can without spilling.
Ujvagi stated this event used to be on a Saturday night prior to the festival becoming a two-day event.
Guests are encouraged to sample ethnic foods offered by vendors from across the globe. A few noteworthy items are stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikas and homemade kolbasz sandwiches. Those worried about overindulging will have plenty of opportunities to burn calories.
Ujvagi estimated there will be eight different performing groups, including Hungarian dancers, a Mexican singer and some Irish bands.
The Gyanta Orchestra from New Jersey will perform again this year. This orchestra is one of the premier Hungarian folk music groups in the United States.
Modern rock music is featured later in the evenings, with headlining Shout!’ a Beatles tribute.
“The interesting area on Saturday night is the Calvin United Church of Christ lot, where Hungarian folk dancers and musicians gather to literally sing and dance the night away,” said Imre Bertalan, an event organizer.
Bertalan has been involved with the festival since its second year, after coming to Birmingham as the community organizer and becoming pastor of Calvin United. He remembers the protests that originally overturned plans for the Consaul Street overpass.
“It was a very strong ethnic neighborhood. There were instances where people came out of St. Stephen’s Church and out of their homes to stop trucks on the street and protest,” Bertalan said.
“We’re super impressed we’ve made it 40 years, and it’s only gotten bigger and better,” Ujvagi said.
The festival runs from noon-10 p.m. Aug. 16 and noon-9 p.m. Aug. 17. Admission is free.