Wallingford Hungarian festival draws a crowd, keeps traditions alive

Wallingford Hungarian festival draws a crowd, keeps traditions alive

WALLINGFORD — Hungarians from all over the state and region converged on the Hungarian Community Club for its annual cultural festival on Sunday.

Balazs Somogyi, a club board member, said the festival, now in its third year, offers people a chance to experience Hungarian culture, cuisine, history and companionship.

Dancers performed to live folk music. Vendors offered cultural items for sale. A food tent featured Hungarian food, including stuffed cabbage, kolbasz, chicken paprikash and gulyas. A children’s corner had face painting and other entertainment.

The club, located at 147 Ward St., has been in existence since 1918. Somogyi, who lives in Cheshire, said having kids at the festival exposes them to their cultural heritage. He estimated 500 to 600 people attended on Sunday.

“One of the problems of every organization like ours is facing is that the older generation is dying off,” he said, “and the new generation is not following in the footsteps, and so it’s very difficult to provide continuity in that way.”

Somogyi arrived in the U.S. in 1956, the year of the Hungarian Revolution, an uprising in the capital city of Budapest against the post-war government, which resulted in a Soviet takeover the following year.

Hundreds of thousands fled Communist Hungary, including Andre Farkas, who brought to the festival the bicycle he rode from Budapest west to Austria in 1956.

“Very few people crossed the border like he did, under circumstances like his,” Somogyi said of Farkas.

In 1956, Farkas, who now lives in Norwalk, won the Budapest championship bicycle race just two days before the October uprising.

“This was Sunday, the Revolution started on Tuesday,” Farkas said.

At age 26, Farkas decided to flee immediately after the revolution because he was a well-known photographer, and was worried his photos of the uprising would get him in trouble with the authorities.

“ I was afraid that they would put me in jail,” he said. “

He traveled with a group of 15 or 20 people, he said. Part of the way to the Austrian border, his group met up with other escapees, including a family with three small children. Farkas tucked the crying baby under his arm to relieve the child’s parents and carried his bicycle on his shoulder over the border.

Farkas also brought some of his collections of Hungarian stamps, streetcar and train tickets, movie tickets, bottle labels and rare matchbox labels from the Tungsram light bulb factory.

Upcoming Hungarian Community Club activities include a bus trip to New York City on Oct. 23, October Fest on Oct. 29 and a pre-ordered kolbasz and stuffed cabbage sale on Nov. 19.

Monthly club meetings take place at 7:30 p.m. on the first Friday of the month.


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