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Hungarian grape festival to benefit Bethlen Communities

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By Cami Dibattista
Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

In celebration of the American Hungarian and Transylvanian culture in our area, the second Hungarian Grape Festival will be held 4 to 9 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Barn, formerly the Millcreek.

“People had a good time last year,” said Timea Szep, cultural program director of Bethlen Communities Hungarian Cultural Center.

Szep said she is hoping for an even better turn out this year. Bethlen Communities is a nonprofit, faith-based, continuing-care retirement community in Ligonier.

Tickets for the festival can be purchased for $17 at the door or $15 in advance by contacting Szep at 724-238-2032 or The Valley Center for Active Adults at 724-238-7942. Children 5-15 years old are $5 and under 5 are free. Deadline for ordering tickets in advance is Monday.

Ticket cost includes a homemade meal with items such as Hungarian/Transylvanian Goulash, fresh baked bread, kielbasa and dessert pastries.

Live entertainment will be provided by local band The Relics and The Tamburitzan Alumni Dance group. Wine tasting by Walnut Hill Winery will be available and there will be a cash bar.

Games will include door prizes, 50/50 tickets and various gift baskets to be raffled off. Baskets have been donated by individuals and local businesses such as Giant Eagle, Betsy's of Ligonier and the YMCA. A lottery ticket tree from the Valley Center for Active Adults will also be raffled off. Items for gift baskets are still being collected and any person or establishment who wishes to donate should contact Szep.

Additionally, a traditional Hungarian game will last for the length of the event. Harvest items such as apples and grapes will be strung throughout the hall and guests are encouraged to steal them. However, getting caught by a police officer will result in a $1 fine. The best harvester will win a prize.

“We played last year and the seniors had so much fun stealing grapes,” said Szep.

The roots of the annual festival began in Hungary as a way to celebrate a successful harvest, said Szep.

“Harvest was very important and the festival was a way to show appreciation to God for putting food on the table.” Wine was included to add “fun at the end of a hard days work,” she said.

When Hungarians later immigrated to America, they brought this tradition of the grape festival with them.

The festival is to occur in the fall – typically in September. However, a November date was chosen for this year's celebration because “it is a Sunday that the Steelers are not scheduled to play football,” Szep said.

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media

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