Tradition, cultural identity, and good, old-fashioned fun collide in three popular festivals this year that showcase everything that's good about being a melting pot.
The long-standing Birmingham Ethnic Festival, along with the Toledo Hibernian Festival, which celebrates Irish heritage, and the Festival of India are all taking place this weekend. Don't worry, though, with judicious planning you can visit all three.
The 38th annual Birmingham Ethnic Festival on Saturday and Sunday in East Toledo pays tribute to Toledo's rich eastern European background with traditional food, dancing, and other entertainment. The festival honors the heritage of the Hungarian workers who moved to the area in the 1890s to work in steel, copper, and shipbuilding industries.
Betsy Rose Ujvagi, secretary of the festival committee, said she has been attending the festival since she was a baby. Now 30, the daughter of longtime East Toledo politician Peter Ujvagi, she said the event provides a chance for residents of the area to come back home and visit each other.
"Every year I say, 'Everyone comes home for the festival.' Everyone who moved out of the neighborhood comes back," she said.
This year it is a two-day event with the traditional waiters' race at 1 p.m. Saturday. The festival is held on Consaul Street in the Birmingham neighborhood and it kicks off with a parade at 12:30 p.m. led by the Cakewalkin' Jass Band in honor of the 80th anniversary of Tony Packo's.
Location: Maria Szkudlarek, left, and Rob Szczublewski, Toledo, dance with other members of the Toledo group Echoes of Poland.
Hours are from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. St. Stephen's Catholic Church, the Hungarian Club of Toledo, VFW Post 4906, and Calvin United Church of Christ will feature chicken paprikas and kolbasz dinners, Hungarian pastries, paprikas noodles and gravy, kolbasz sandwiches, stuffed cabbages, and szalona sutes. Ethnic dance groups will entertain and vendors will be set up all along the street.
Hibernian Irish Festival celebrates 22nd year
Toledo will celebrate all things Irish this weekend at the 22nd Annual Hibernian Irish Festival in downtown Toledo.
The two-day street festival kicks off Friday on Huron Street at Monroe Street and will include the sights, sounds, and foods of Ireland. Local and national musicians and dancers will share Irish culture through traditional songs and dances.
Festival-goers can feast on Jiggs dinners, corned beef specialties, and other Irish-themed dishes from numerous vendors and nearby restaurants. Other food and refreshments, including carnival-like foods, will also be available, said Dr. Thomas McCabe, festival chairman. Also available will be kilts, Celtic patterns, pottery, and other crafts.
Riding the wave of the 2012 Summer Olympics, this year's festival will bring pole vaulting to the streets of Toledo. The street pole vault competition, will mirror that of the Olympic games, with local students and adults competing. "It's just a form of entertainment for festival-goers," Dr. McCabe said. "We're looking forward to it especially since the Olympics just ended."
The festival is open from 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and 2 p.m. to midnight Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults and children older than 16. Children younger than 16 are admitted free.
Friday's entertainment includes performances by Irish bands Extra Stout at 5:30 p.m., Dulahan at 7:30 p.m., and Two 2 Many at 9:30 p.m. A live DJ will be on site beginning at 4 p.m. and Irish dancers will perform at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, Irish dancers will share their talents and culture. Molly Dancers will perform at 3 p.m. Performances by the students from the Ardan School of Irish Dance will begin at 4:30 and 6 p.m. Other acts include Extra Stout at 5 and 6:30, Two 2 Many at 7:30, and Dulahan at 9:30.
For more information, visit aohtoledo.com.
Getting a 'glimpse' of India in Toledo
Say "Bollywood" and what promptly comes to mind is the movie entertainment industry in India.
Say "spices" and one thinks of rich, delectable foods that please the palate.
Put the two words together and you have the theme of the 23rd year of the Festival of India, "Bollywood Spices," set for Friday through Sunday, at the Hindu Temple and Heritage Hall, 4336 King Rd., in Sylvania.
The festival, as well as parking, are free and there will be plenty of Indian-flavored entertainment and food. Bollywood is the highlight of this year's festival, which gives a nod to the Asian nation's movie industry, as songs and dances are to be performed by people dressed in Indian clothing and costumes.
"Bollywood is a huge movie industry in India," said Atul Agnihotri, festival spokesman.
A catered dinner kicks off the festival at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children.
Entertainment begins with a concert called "Heart Beat" at 8:30 p.m. It will feature medleys from 1915 to today, with Indian music presented by singer Kuldip Bhatt of Detroit and his band Sammvad take the stage.
More entertainment is set for Saturday from 1 to 10 p.m. About 30 dancers -- members of the local Indian community and their friends -- will dress in beautiful Indian clothes and perform Bollywood dances.
"They have been practicing for months," Agnihotri said. "The stage will be set up professionally, and there will be screens showing the performance."
A regular prayer service is set from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, with lunch afterwards.
Visitors will have plenty of opportunities to browse and shop vendors for Indian crafts, clothes, gifts, jewelry, music CDs, and movie DVDs. Anyone who wants can get a temporary tattoo in Indian design.
Three restaurants will provide an array of Indian foods for guests to purchase at reasonable prices: Deepam India of Sylvania, Hut-K Chaat of Ann Arbor, and Priya Restaurant of Farmington Hills, Mich.
And even if visitors don't make any purchases, "You get a flavor of the Indian bazaar," Agnihotri said. "You get a glimpse of India here in Toledo at no cost."
Blade staff writers Rod Lockwood, RoNeisha Mullen, and Rose Russell contributed to this article.