The scouting movement, based on Lord Robert Baden-Powell’s model, was embraced enthusiastically in Hungary as early as 1910. Scouts in Hungary soon earned a place in the larger society, recognized for their valuable contributions to youth education. After World War II, when the Communist regime banned scouting, Hungarian scouts then reorganized in exile, in other countries around the globe. In the United States, Hungarian scout troops were first organized in Cleveland in 1951. Since then, hundreds of local Hungarian youths have taken the Scout Oath and have become members of the worldwide Hungarian Scout Association in Exteris. At present, there are four scout troops in Cleveland; a traditional boy and girl scout troop and a men and a women’s adult troop, with a combined total of about 250 registered scouts. All four troops are supported by the American Hungarian Friends of Scouting, a 501(c)(3) organization.
The large group of young Hungarians in Cleveland gave Andrew and Magda Temesváry the inspiration in 1973 to organize a group that deals exclusively with the study of Hungarian culture in the “grass roots” sense of the word. The aim of the group is to preserve folk arts of the Hungarians living in the Carpathian basin; to search out the arts, make them their own, and present them to their viewing audiences. Folk dance, music, costumes, ballads, instruments and customs are areas explored in depth.
Membership in the Ensemble is reward-based, with a primary requisite of taking on an active leadership role in the local Hungarian Scout troops’ weekly meetings. Successful Scout leaders—who read, write, and speak fluent Hungarian—are thus invited to join the Ensemble, where they experience cultural preservation in a fun but disciplined manner. We dance, make our own authentic costumes, sing as a choir, and celebrate holidays with traditional Hungarian customs. Research, woodcarving, painting, embroidery, and performances throughout the year round out the highly active and rewarding experiences for each member.
Members eagerly share their colorful heritage with friends and neighbors in the communities in which they live, and welcome opportunities to display their hard-won knowledge and feature their dancing skills, woodcarvings, paintings, and bright embroidery. These vibrant and memorable performances take place in all areas of the community, including theaters, community festivals, churches, theme parks, formal balls, nursing homes and private residences.
Traveling has always been a favorite of the Ensemble. We attend two yearly weekend workshop camps, one near Cleveland and one in upstate New York, where we learn new dances and techniques from guest instructors and artists. The Ensemble has performed in many places both nationally and internationally, including Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Ontario, Quebec, Hungary, and Transylvania (Romania). Locally, we have performed in venues such as Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Canton Civic Center, E.J. Thomas Hall, The Palace Theater, and Blossom Music Center. Audiences have included many dignitaries: mayors, governors, members of Congress, ambassadors, as well as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and President Ronald Reagan.
During the summer of 2001, the Ensemble toured northern Hungary and Transylvania (a part of Romania). The aim was to do ethnographic research and for the members to see folk culture firsthand in the villages. The members were required to prepare for the trip by researching topics that were seen and heard while on tour. During the tour they learned dances, songs, and other elements of folk culture from the older people in the Hungarian villages.
The summer of 2011 brought another European tour for the Ensemble. This time, they toured northern Hungary and Hungarian-speaking regions of Slovakia and Ukraine. They spent ten days in Kazár, a village in northern Hungary, where they learned a new dance and became acquainted with specific aspects of this village’s folk culture through interviews and daily living with the villagers. In Slovakia and Ukraine, they visited major historical sites and built relationships with the local Hungarian scouts.
The Ensemble also had the honor of taking part in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in July 2013, where we performed in the Hungarian village erected on the National Mall.
The summer of 2016, the troupe once again went on an ethnographic tour to Hungary and the Hungarian-speaking regions of Transylvania and Serbia. Not only were they able to gain specific knowledge into other Hungarians’ ways of lives, but they were able to gain a better appreciation for their own heritage. The troupe gathered their knowledge, as well as another new dance that they learned their first week and a half in Kazár, to bring home to wow their families and audiences in Cleveland.
The Ensemble held its 45th anniversary performance on November 10th, 2018, at the Lakewood Civic Center in Lakewood, Ohio. The performance was a great success on many levels. Not only were we supported by more than 600 people in the auditorium, but after for the week after the gala show, 5,000 people joined us to watch it on the Internet.