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Hungarian Festival Attracts Regional Community to New Brunswick

Annual Event Took Place June 1 Along Somerset and Plum Streets
Hungarian Festival
Children dance in traditional Hungarian outfits at the 38th Annual Hungarian Festival on Somerset Street. Darcy Thompson

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ--On June 1, the 38th annual Hungarian Festival occupied Somerset and Plum Streets in the Fifth Ward, in a celebration of traditional Hungarian.

The festival spanned the entire Saturday, bringing together various activities available for the public.

Opening with a parade that travelled along Somerset Street, the festival officially commenced by public benedictions by two pastors from the Hungarian Christian churches located on the same street, and a cultural ambassador from Hungary.

This was then followed by New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill, who was accompanied by Council members Elizabeth Sheehan Garlatti and Kevin Egan, gave the keynote address in the introductory ceremonies.   

The festival contained an array of folk music and dancers, along with an array of authentic cuisine such as Töltött káposzta(stuffed cabbage rolls), kolbász (sausage), and lángos – a deep fried specialty bread eaten with a variety of toppings.

Aside from attracting many hungry people from the surrounding area, the cultural cuisine caught the attention of “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmerman, which can be seen on the Travel Channel. 

Many of the culinary and merchandise stands that filled Somerset St. were sponsored by businesses and church organizations throughout New Jersey, demonstrating how expansive the community has become over the years.

New Brunswick was the home of a large Hungarian population that immigrated to the city in the early twentieth century, with a majority of families employed through different factories that were owned by Johnson & Johnson.

In the 1930s, it was estimated that the Hungarian community made up one quarter of the residents of New Brunswick.

The city also saw a new wave of immigration in 1956, where refugees were brought over to Piscataway, from the failed Hungarian Revolution. 

A memorial dedicated to the victims of the revolution stands at Mindszenty Squareat 219 Somerset St, near St. Ladislaus Roman Catholic Church.

Although many have moved out the city, the Hungarian presence in New Brunswick is still present, which includes the Hungarian American Athletic Club, four churches, numerous foundations, and a museum.

The Hungarian American Heritage Museum offered a special exhibit by Hungarian artists and photographers, while leaving up the remainder of the exhibits open for visitors to tour.

The museum, which was established in 1959, offers an array of exhibits that include native Hungarian and Hungarian-American art, garnering over 80,000 visitors since it’s opening in 1980.  

Aside from the cuisine and music, attendees were able to visit the children’s attraction, which included arts and crafts, inflatable games, and face painting.