(More about the festival: Hungarian Folk Culture on Spectacular Display at the National Mall)
Faye Gillespie (Boston):
"Being a Hungarian American in Washington DC, July 2—7 was an incredible experience. My name is Faye Gillespie, I am 17 years old, and I had the absolute pleasure of volunteering all around the Hungarian Heritage village for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Having visited Hungary several times in my young life, I thought I knew all there is to know about the nation, but I could not have been more mistaken. The festival showcased a refined master artistry that my visits did not. Through volunteering, I was able to help a family of master chefs from eastern Hungary who prepared Gulyas Stew traditionally, in a cauldron, from scratch. Their stew definitely lived up to the fifteen national titles it had won in Hungary. I also worked with a traditional toy maker, and a woman who worked in the ever dwindling blue dyeing business. As the hours passed, I became more and more impressed with how funny, hospitable, professional, and truly talented the men and women were. Aside from the artisans, there was more Hungarian tradition to be proud of. Every night, the Hungarian folk dancers would take the stage on the National Mall for an overflowing tent of excited tourists and volunteers. The uproar and cheers from the crowd could probably be heard from the Capitol Building itself. I jumped up from my seat and cheered on multiple occasions, and left swearing to myself that I would take up folk dancing upon my arrival home. When July 7 came, I wished with all my heart to be able to have one more day to talk with the artisans, dancers, and other volunteers who traveled so far and worked so hard to showcase the Hungarian culture on America’s biggest stage. The Hungarian Heritage festival rekindled my Hungarian pride; it was an unforgettable week of learning, sharing, and basking in the glory of being able to share my culture with hundreds and thousands of other people."
Photo above: Faye Gillespie with the Csontos family, ready to learn how to make real goulash (For more photos about the festival, see our Hungarian Heritage gallery)
Ágnes Virga (Boston):
"Best time ever at the Hungarian Heritage Folklife Festival in Washington, DC! Thanks to HAC, our umbrella organization. A whole group from Boston descended on the National Mall, representing the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts, Boskola, and the scouts. Our young people were volunteering and the rest of us thought we would visit the festival for a while and then go off to museums, galleries etc.
Not So! We spent the entire week at the festival: there was so much to do and see and eat and drink and dance and folk artists to talk to and new friends to make. Thousands and thousands of Americans kept coming day by day with such interest that our volunteer girls were ready to faint in the heat – they did not have even a minute to eat or drink, there were so many visitors asking them for demonstrations and answers.
Then, at night, yet more music and dancing! The whole city was abuzz, and wherever we went, to restaurants or museums (just too cool down – shame on us, for the performers could not do even that!), the waiters, security guards, and all knew about the festival! Some even greeted us in Hungarian! Surely more than 1.5 million or more learned where Hungary was on the map. I met several people who said they took extra days off from work just to see the festival. And now they are planning to visit Hungary for sure. We were so proud and thankful that we were part of HAC and were able to support this once-in-a-lifetime event."
Photo above: Ágnes Virga with Gyula Mihalkó, a Hungarian hat maker from Balmazújváros (For more photos about the festival, see our Hungarian Heritage gallery)