Hello! and welcome to the 39th Annual Birmingham Ethnic Festival. We are so happy to be able to bring you two full days of enjoyment again this year and welcome you to Birmingham for this celebration of heritage, friends, good times and great food!
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.
Schedule Items to take note of this year include:
12PM Saturday, August 17 – Cake Walkin Jazz Band Parade
4PM Saturday, August 17 – 18th Annual Waiters Race at VFW 4906
12PM Sunday, August 18 – Recognition Ceremonies at St. Stephen’s Church
We are glad to have the opportunity to thank all the people who made this year’s Festival possible. 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 39th time, we can’t wait to show you what we have in store next year!
Köszönöm, and thank you!
This year’s Birmingham Ethnic Festival book is dedicated to Sister Madelena Pohlman, SND.
Sr. Madelena, who was born in Delphos, Ohio, began her ministry in the Birmingham neighborhood about 30 years ago at Holy Rosary Parish. During much of her time at Holy Rosary and living in the convent there, Sister was a full time religion teacher at
Notre Dame Academy and volunteered in the parish. However it seemed she spent more time volunteering than at her “real job.” Sister was in charge of the R.C.I.A. (the
process for those wishing to join the Catholic Church). She also helped with visiting the sick, helping with the sacramental program and liturgy, the Renew program and adult education, and whatever else needed to be done. After Holy Rosary was unfortunately closed she continued to carry on her involvement in the same types of ministry at St. Stephen and Sacred Heart. She was also dedicated to taking communion weekly to those Catholics in St. Charles Hospital. At the heart of her ministry was her concern for social justice and ministry to the those in any kind of need. But her service was not limited to the “spiritual” sphere. Wherever there was a festival or dinner Sister could usually be found washing dishes or helping serve or whatever was needed.
But Sr. Madelena’s ministry was not limited to the Catholic parishes. She was the catalyst behind many of the ecumenical activities that took place along with Zion Hill and Calvin United such as the joint Thanksgiving service and other ecumenical services and the
neighborhood Christmas caroling. And she was aided by the prayers of the three churches as she struggled to carry her ministry in the neighborhood. She was also active in the Birmingham Development Corporation especially in assisting with planning the service activities of the Catholic Heart Youth Camp, the beautification contests, and other projects.
Sister Madelena formally retired from parish ministry at St. Stephen and Sacred Heart this past June. But there have been many sightings of her in the neighborhood. Our Churches and our community are certainly richer because of the dedication of Sister Madalena.
From chicken paprikas to “Hunky Turkey” (roasted bacon sandwich), stuffed cabbage, kolbasz (sausage sandwiches), gulyás, palacsinta (crepes), cabbage and noodles, pastries and more, the Birmingham Ethnic Festival offers attendees a mouthwatering array of food options each year, organizers say.
“I’m pretty sure the food is the thing that brings people out more than anything,” said Betsy Ujvagi, secretary of the Birmingham Ethnic Festival Committee.
Ethnic food is always among the biggest draws of the Birmingham Ethnic Festival. Photo Courtesy Birmingham Ethnic Festival Committee
The festival, an annual event in East Toledo’s Birmingham neighborhood, will once again run for two days — offering twice as many opportunities to soak in the music, dancing and, of course, the food. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 17 and noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 18. Admission is free.
New this year will be free tours of Magyar Gardens on York Street and a neighborhood yard sale. The yard sale, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 17, was inspired by the one at the Old West End Festival, Ujvagi said.
“We were trying to get something like that started and about 40 families wanted to do it,” she said. “We’re trying it out this year and hopefully it can expand in coming years.”
Garden tours will be offered 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 17. The community garden has been in the same spot for more than 100 years and was recently recognized by The Ohio State University Extension Service as one of Ohio’s best community gardens, Ujvagi said.
“Every year we get more and more people involved,” she said. “We’re really excited about being able to show off the community garden.”
The Cakwalkin’ Jass Band will kick off the festivities Aug. 17 with a strolling performance down Consaul Street.
The annual Waiter’s Race — a European tradition featuring four-person relay teams carrying trays holding a full pitcher and two glasses of beer — has become one of the most popular events, Ujvagi said. This year’s race is set for 4 p.m. Aug. 17.
“It’s so much fun to watch people running up and down the streets, trying not to spill their beer,” Ujvagi said. “The whole concept is not something you see around here very often. Every year we get some new teams. When it first began, it was just all the bars and restaurants on Consaul Street, but it’s expanded more each year.”
The second day of the festival will start with a recognition ceremony on the steps of St. Stephen’s Church. Organizers will announce the recipient of the annual Friend of the Birmingham Neighborhood Award and present the Beer Keg Trophy to the winner of the Waiter’s Race.
The neighborhood has a large Hungarian population, but the festival celebrates all ethnicities, Ujvagi said.
“The great thing about our festival and the thing I think makes it different is it’s a celebration of Birmingham and the people who live here and the ethnicities that are reflected in the people who live in the neighborhood,” Ujvagi said.
Live entertainment, including musicians and ethnic dance groups, will perform both days on three stages. Hungarian folk dance groups, including the Kossuth Folkdancers of Kitchener, Ontario, and Kis Szivek Dancers of Detroit, will perform. Other dance groups to be featured include Echoes of Poland, Molly’s Irish Dancers, Rumbling Rhythm Cloggers and the Holzhackerbuam Schuhplattlers. The Gyanta Hungarian Folk Ensemble from New Jersey, one of the premier Hungarian folk music groups in the United States, will also perform. Local acts include Big Ticket, Tru Brew, Arctic Clam and Shout!, a Beatles tribute band.
Vendors will sell crafts and other items, including honey from the neighborhood’s community garden. There will also be a children’s area.
Betsy’s father, Peter Ujvagi, a member of the festival committee, said the festival is like a homecoming because it draws people from across the state and even the country.
“People who have lived in the neighborhood never really leave it, so there are many folks who are what we call Birmingham alumni,” said Peter, who was born in Hungary and grew up in Birmingham. “We have some that come back from Texas every year. We’re expecting buses from Cleveland and Columbus, from the Hungarian communities there.”
The festival was started 39 years ago to celebrate the neighborhood’s success in stopping the construction of a four-lane overpass that would have wiped out one side of Consaul Street, including Tony Packo’s, Peter said. Today, the neighborhood is fighting to minimize the number of homes to be demolished by an expansion of the City of Toledo’s water works.
“The heart and soul of the festival is that for more than two generations there has been a group of people who have fought to both preserve and enhance the neighborhood, both physically and in terms of its ethnicity and cultural identity,” Peter said.
Last year was the first year the festival was officially two days and organizers called it a success.
“It went very, very well and we’re hoping for it to be even better this year,” Peter said. “People can come on Saturday, then come back on Sunday and they’ll enjoy it even more.”
Born of events which took place in our community more than three decades ago, the Birmingham Ethnic Festival has come to be known as a Sunday in the Old Country. Over the years, thousands have come on this third Sunday of August to share in the ethnic traditions, the diverse culture and the heritage for which Birmingham is known. With the changing times and popularity of the Festival, we have expanded the Festival to include the entire 3rd weekend in August.
Several sets of railroad tracks on Consaul Street were an ongoing source of frustration for motorists traveling between Toledo, Oregon and points east. Traffic is often stopped at these crossings by the trains. Through the 1950s and 1960s the Birmingham community sought to have a roadway built over the tracks, but to no avail.
When the city finally agreed to construct the overpass, plans called for a four lane bridge and the eventual widening of Consaul Street to four lanes as well. This construction would have eliminated every building on one side of Consual Street. The heart of our community would have been torn from us. The Birmingham Neighborhood Coalition
(B.N.C.) was organized in April of 1974 in response to this threat of destruction. Organizations representing all segments of the community came together to fight the widening of Consaul Street and subsequently to address other issues in the neighborhood.
In the 39 years since the founding of the B.N.C., the people of Birmingham have successfully addressed a wide range of problems. We are again fighting for our neighborhood through the Birmingham Development Corporation to minimize the impact of the expansion of the Collins Water Treatment Plant and to preserve as many homes near Collins Park as possible.
The first Birmingham Ethnic Festival took place on August 17, 1974. The first festival planning committee was chaired by Paul G. Hayden and included nearly 40 people, representing almost every church and organization within the neighborhood. From the first Festival Book we read the goals of this annual event as written by the founders:
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 it’s activities, to provide a means whereby the aspirations of the Birmingham community may be realized as fully as possible in the future.
We want to take the opportunity to thank the Sponsors who make the Birmingham Ethnic Festival possible:
Please note that a few Sponsors were marked at the wrong levels in the Festival Book. This post definess them appropriately.
Hello everyone! One more week until Festival! Are you ready? We’re proud to present the official Festival Book, accessible by clicking the link below:
All the information you need to know can be found within, and if there are any other questions you have, of course, feel free to leave us a note here, on Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to see you in Birmingham next weekend!
A Neighborhood Yard Sale will be held Saturday, August 17, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Participating homes will be listed on a shopper’s map that will be available at the BDC festival booth and the Birmingham Branch Library, or follow the link below: