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Published: Monday, 8/22/2005

Birmingham Ethnic Festival satisfies hunger for Hungary

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

They came to see old friends, buy some stuffed cabbage, and in Steve Zukow's case, do some slapping.

Mr. Zukow was one of the thousands of people who crammed Consaul Street in East Toledo yesterday for the 31st annual Birmingham Ethnic Festival, a celebration of the community's Hungarian heritage.

Mr. Zukow, from suburban Detroit, was one of several members of the Csipke Dance Ensemble that performed traditional Hungarian folk dancing for the crowd.

Much of his routine involved slapping his legs and feet. He said the dancing, though strenuous, doesn't usually result in bruising. If it does, it's worth it if it serves their mission, he said.

"Our mission is to expose people to the Hungarian culture through dance," he explained.

The mission of festival organizers was to make sure everyone had a good time and spent money on food and drink. By mid afternoon, all signs pointed to a record festival in terms of sales, said Wendy Kosztak, secretary for the festival committee.

"It got busy early. It's the best weather we've had in years, and everything has gone really well," she said.

Down the street at VFW Post 4906, Commander Tom Szollosi was busy grilling bratwurst but took a break to tally up the afternoon's sales in his head.

"Let's see, we've sold 500 'brats, 300 shish ke-babs, 700 pigs in a blanket, over 60 cases of beer, and 100 pounds of chicken. Last year, we sold out by 8 [p.m.], and this year, we'll do it by 7," he predicted. "This is great. We make more money today than we do in three months."

Ron Mundell came to the festival all the way from Terre Haute, Ind. He and fellow members of his town's Hungarian Club buy meat for an ethnic festival in Terre Haute from an East Toledo butcher, so they decided to come up and see how the East Toledo festival compared. He was impressed with what he saw.

"You need a touch of the old. It's good for communities to have this," he said.

Peter Szilagyi came to the festival from Detroit, where he's a drummer in a Hungarian band called Goat's Eye. "It sounds better in Hungarian," he promised.

He helped escort the color guard down the street and, after he finished, said the festival was "great. I haven't seen a strictly Hungarian festival before."

Cathy Soley of Toledo, another member of the Csipke Dance Ensemble, said she enjoys the festival's cultural offerings because "we're keeping our traditions alive."

Ms. Kosztak, the festival committee secretary, agrees.

"It's one of the lasting festivals that holds the traditions of the old country. You can come back and see a lot of the people you grew up with," she said.

Contact Luke Shockman at: lshockman@theblade.com or 419-724-6084.



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