Hungarian Folk Culture on Spectacular Display at the National Mall

Testimonials by volunteers and visitors

Between June 26 and July 7, hundreds of thousands of visitors to Washington’s National Mall enjoyed Hungarian folk culture in full color, sound, taste, smell, and motion.

The Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, held annually in Washington, D.C. since 1967, presents international folk traditions in a live setting. This year’s festival featured “Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival.” One hundred folk musicians, dancers, artists and craftspeople from Hungary and ethnic Hungarian communities in the surrounding countries traveled to Washington to display their skills. Each day, 50,000 to 150,000 visitors immersed themselves in rich and vibrant Hungarian folk heritage: they enjoyed the music, tasted the food, took dance lessons, and tried their hand at traditional crafts. Concerts and folk dance performances rounded out the evenings.

Visitors of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC

Since the fall of 2010, the Hungarian American Coalition has been involved in supporting the festival. While the festival was funded in large part by a Hungarian government allocation of almost $1 million, the Coalition raised an additional $165,000, including an inaugural $150,000 grant from the Hungary Initiatives Foundation (HIF). With these funds, the Coalition organized the construction of key festival structures: the carved-wood Dance Barn and Peacock Tower as well as the iconic 10-foot tall Puli Dog wood slat sculpture, built on site by four Hungarian master carpenters and their seven assistants from Transylvania, supervised by team leader Sándor Herpai (Budapest) and contractor Gyula Szilágyi (Chicago).

At the festival’s conclusion, the Coalition will donate the Dance-Barn and Peacock Tower to the Hungarian Scout Association in Exteris for their campground in Fillmore, New York. The Coalition will cover the costs of dismantling and shipping the structures to their destination. The Puli Dog will be temporarily housed at the Hungarian Embassy while a good home is identified.

The Coalition worked closely with festival organizers – the Budapest-based Balassi Institute and its Director Pál Hatos; the Hungarian Cultural Center in New York City and its Director Dr. Ágnes Fülemile; and the Hungarian Embassy in Washington – to help maximize the event’s potential and create a memorable experience for visitors. 

In addition to the organizations and their staffs, countless volunteers from throughout the Hungarian American community contributed to the festival’s success.

“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the American public and Hungarian Americans to connect with Hungary,” stated Coalition President Maximilian Teleki.“In fact, through various media, the festival has reached nearly 40 million people throughout the United States and beyond. Over ten thousand people visited the Coalition’s online account of the festival. So many Hungarian Americans did their part as volunteers and supporters, which made a difference between merely having a good program and making this event an outstanding success. I am proud beyond measure to be associated with so many dedicated Hungarians.”

For more personal stories, visit the Gulyás Pot’s recently renewed website!

Also visit the Festival’s official website!

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