Hello! I’d like to welcome you to the 38th Annual Birmingham Ethnic Festival. We are proud to be able to bring you two full days of enjoyment this year, for the first time. Whether you attend for the ethnic music, the ever-increasingly popular Waiters Race, to see old friends or to make new ones, we welcome you to Birmingham!
Due to a series of events that happened here nearly 40 years ago, members of the Birmingham neighborhood came together to protect the heart of our community and its best interests – a responsibility which continues today. The Birmingham Ethnic Festival is our way to celebrate the diversity of our neighborhood, to thank our friends and neighbors for their continued support.
As the first Birmingham Ethnic Festival book states: Our intention is to point to the spirit of the original ethnic settlers in Birmingham. Their cooperation and unity of purpose was the foundation for the building of this community. The motivating purpose of the early settlers was their faith in the American ideal of success being equally available to all who are willing to work toward that end. The Birmingham Ethnic Festival is an outgrowth of pride and enthusiasm of the Birmingham community, and its desire to share with greater Toledo a taste of the ethnic flavor which has so permeated the neighborhood. This pride has been a factor of great cohesiveness, sustaining the neighborhood through many threats to its very existence. The Birmingham neighborhood has shown a concerted and serious attention to the betterment of the community, to the projects of beautification, renovation and preservation. This festival seeks, through its activities, to provide a means whereby the aspirations of the Birmingham community may be realized as fully as possible in the future.
Due to our ability to open the Festival up as a full two-day event, some scheduling changes have occurred. The Waiters Race will open the Festival on Saturday this year, with a parade at 12:30PM and the race at 1PM. Don’t be late! The Recognition Ceremonies will remain at Noon on Sunday on the steps of Saint Stephen’s Church. We are glad to have the opportunity to thank all the people who made this year’s Festival possible.
Again, thank you for your support of the Birmingham neighborhood through your attendance at the Birmingham Festival. If this is your first time, there is a lot to see! If this is your 38th time, we can’t wait to show you what we have in store next year!
Köszönöm, and thank you,
Birmingham Ethnic Festival Chair
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.
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.
This year’s Birmingham Ethnic Festival Book is dedicated to one of the Birmingham Community’s most loyal members, Sandra “Sandy” Bloomquist, who passed away on April 25, 2012 after a brief battle with cancer. Born in Lima, Ohio, Sandy earned a Bachelor of Education degree from Mary Manse College. She began her career as an elementary school teacher at St. Michael’s in Findlay, and then at Lima, St. John’s. Sandy moved to the Birmingham neighborhood, where
she held a 26 year-long career teaching at St. Stephen’s School. Hundreds of children from the neighborhood and surrounding communities passed through “Miss B’s” classroom, where she was a strict, but influential part in shaping their lives. She was always well known for her science experiments and her knack for making algebra understandable. Miss B dedicated her summers to tutoring her students in math and science. Sandy also coached CYO basketball and softball teams, and was actively involved in all CYO programs, earning her awards from the Diocese of Toledo for her work in CYO.
After retiring from teaching at St. Stephen’s, Sandy began her second career in the healthcare field, working in the Emergency Room at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, and then in the Radiology Department there. She retired from St. V’s after 25 years of service.
Sandy was a long-time member of St. Stephen’s Church, and was very active in many parish ministries. She was a member of the choir and served as a Eucharistic minister, taking Holy Communion to the elderly and homebound. Sandy would be seen working at almost every parish function, including the volunteering of countless hours preparing for the Birmingham Ethnic Festival dinners.
Always a champion of the poor, Sandy was a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, where she tirelessly volunteered her time in helping the less fortunate of the community to attain basic needs including providing food, clothing, medications and shelter. Sandy served as the Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Toledo Chapter, a position which was voluntary and non-paid. Sandy also served on the Board of Trustees and as a resident-volunteer for Neighborhood Housing Services of Toledo.
Sandy’s dedication to serving her community also included her active involvement with Catholic Charities and feeding the hungry through the Food Pantry. Over the past several years, she coordinated the efforts of the high school volunteers of Catholic H.E.A.R.T Work Camp, in performing yard work and upkeep for the needy and elderly of the Birmingham neighborhood. Always working to better the Birmingham community, Sandy also volunteered for Toledo Grows Community Gardens and for the Birmingham Development Corporation.
In 2007, Sandy was finally inducted into the Birmingham Hall of Fame, as a distinguished citizen, for her dedication of service to the Birmingham Community as well as to the Toledo area.
This year’s Birmingham Ethnic Festival will not be the same without Sandy’s enthusiasm and zest for all things Hungarian. The Birmingham Community will never know a truer friend or stronger supporter than Sandy Bloomquist, and her passing has left a great void in the neighborhood and in our hearts. Her loyalty and compassion for service to the needy will live on in all those fortunate enough to have known her.
Written by Sarah Ottney | | email@example.com
The 38th annual festival will be open noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 18 and noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 19. Admission is free. Proceeds from food and vendor booths will benefit neighborhood organizations, including churches, the VFW and the Hungarian Club.
Organizers decided to expand the event to two days after noticing more and more people showing up Saturday night to watch the Waiters Race, a popular annual event held the night before the festival’s official Sunday opening, said Festival Chairman Imre Bertalan.
“Last year we decided, ‘OK, we’ll open a couple vendors on Saturday and see how attendance is,’” Bertalan said. “We had crowds and that told us, ‘Let’s go for a two-day festival.’ We’re excited about it.”
The festival will kick off with a parade at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 18 led by the Cakewalkin’ Jass Band in honor of the 80th anniversary of Tony Packo’s.
Birmingham Festival Little Heart Dancers
The Waiters Race will follow at 1 p.m. Based on a traditional event in Europe, participants run a relay involving pitchers of beer with the winner based on a combination of speed and spillage.
“There is a fierce rivalry. It is a hotly contested event each year,” Bertalan said.
The second day of the festival will start with a recognition ceremony at noon on the steps of St. Stephen’s Church. Organizers will announce the recipient of the annual Friend of the Birmingham Neighborhood Award, recognize international guests and present the Beer Keg Trophy to the winner of the Waiters Race.
Live entertainment, including musicians and ethnic dance groups, will perform both days on three stages. Vendors will be selling crafts and other items, including honey from the neighborhood’s community garden. There will also be a children’s area.
Of course there will also be food, including chicken paprikas, “Hunkey Turkey” (roasted bacon sandwich), stuffed cabbage, kolbasz (sausage sandwiches), gulyás, palacsinta (crepes), cabbage and noodles, pastries and more.
There will also be a tent displaying historic items and commemorating the Playdium and other historic Birmingham buildings. The Playdium, a 110-year-old neighborhood landmark, was razed in January after sitting vacant for years.
“Not much could be saved, but we are encouraging people to provide us with remembrances. Some folks in our community save everything,” said Lucas County Administrator Peter Ujvagi, a longtime Birmingham resident and member of the festival committee. “The Playdium was the gateway to our neighborhood and the center of culture for 100 years. I died a little that day.”
Thousands attend the festival each year, including people from across the country with ties to the neighborhood.
“It’s like a homecoming,” Ujvagi said. “The spirit of the neighborhood is much broader and bigger than the physical neighborhood. We’ve always found that’s the strength of the community.”
The inaugural festival was held to celebrate the neighborhood’s victory in stopping the construction of a four-lane overpass and widening of Consaul Street, Ujvagi said.
“That would have split the neighborhood and wiped out Packo’s and many other neighborhood businesses,” Ujvagi said. “It was a hard-fought battle for neighborhood preservation. We realized then that many people did not understand what a unique, diverse, multi-ethnic community the Birmingham neighborhood was so a festival that opened the door to the rest of Northwest Ohio was initiated.”
Bertalan, also a longtime Birmingham resident, said his favorite part of the festival is the meaning behind it.
“I love the neighborhood and I just see this event showcasing not only the history of neighborhood, but its present diversity and demonstrating hope and confidence in the future,” Bertalan said.
Ujvagi said he hopes visitors come away with a better understanding of the neighborhood’s culture — but also just have fun.
“We want them to enjoy our food and our cultural dance and music — and to have such a great time that they absolutely have to come back for the 39th Birmingham Ethnic Festival,” Ujvagi said.