- 7 Nov 2019 1:32 PM
Held on Saturday 2 November in 2019, the annual Xpat Charity Gala took on the traditional British theme of Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night. Once again this year featured a sterling performance by Her Majesty’s Ambassador Iain Lindsay OBE, and also strong support from main sponsor FirstMed.
* Follow this link to see party pics by Russell Skidmore
* Click here for event snaps by Marcus Schirrmacher
Dennis Diokno, CEO, FirstMed: “A truly spectacular evening! FirstMed has proudly been the main sponsor of this XpatLoop Charity Gala fundraiser for many years, and has been a partner of XpatLoop for nearly 20 years. I thoroughly enjoyed the fabulous company at this event again. I look forward to many more good times together!”
The cosmopolitan feel created by the combination of expats and internationally-minded locals resulted in free and easy networking among friends, acquaintances, and new connections.
The evening began with an up close and personal ‘meet and greet’ session, soothed by singer Ian O'Sullivan who played a mix of feel-good rhythms on guitar, charming guests with his cool vocals.
Ian stood alongside a Hard Rock Hotel Budapest display of iconic Fender guitars, like the legendary Stratocaster. Guests could hold and strum some amazing instruments, under the guidance of a professional guitar player, which added an innovative musical element to the event.
Inside this arrivals area were also great displays by FirstMed, Budapest’s leading private medical clinic, Samsung set-up a special mobile phone + photo installation, and in between all the networking MINI offered special complimentary test drives to guests.
The event’s much appreciated Gold Sponsor was BlackRock Hungary, and this year Luxury Project Events also joined in as a Silver Sponsor, helping to arrange lovely things like fresh flowers for the tables and other such elegant and helpful touches.
Special Effects International once again supported the event in a major way as Silver Sponsor, expertly arranging all the event’s various audio and visual tech elements, including a virtual bonfire, big screen fireworks display, and special lighting effects.
Sparkling welcome drinks thanks to Bortársaság and Etyeki Kúria were served from the start, along with a fabulous range of appetizers from Good Karma, there were truffle treats presented by Triffla, and Arriba Taqueria once again offered guests Mexican salsa with fresh chips.
Main drink sponsor Zwack Unicum ensured guests could get into the right spirit upon arrival, and all night. Also all evening the Coca-Cola Company kindly provided a great range of soft drink refreshments, and Nespresso served up top quality coffee options throughout the event.
This early evening networking session provided a warm entrance and lively starter, the atmosphere was friendly and open so friends could comfortably catch-up and make new acquaintances, while newbie expats could easily introduce themselves to the community.
Richard Dyer, Principal, British International School, Budapest: “Catherine and I enjoyed the evening immensely! Many congratulations on a very successful Saturday evening. It was a superbly organised event. To manage the balance between society party and elegant charity gala is difficult, but you managed this with panache.”
Once the welcome zone was nicely full with cheerful guests, the doors were opened to the Grand Ballroom of the recently refurbished Budapest Marriott Hotel - the fabulous venue sponsor of this event for the 4th year – where the stage was set for the night ahead, with special lighting effects, huge presentation screens, fine wine and craft beer tasting.
From inside the ballroom, and on the adjoining large terrace, guests enjoyed spectacular views of the River Danube - to the north from the Chain Bridge (the design and construction of which was overseen by an Englishman and a Scotsman, respectively) the Royal Castle and Gardens above the Buda waterfront, and to the south the illuminated Elizabeth Bridge.
The gala was officially and appropriately opened by another Brit, himself is a Scot, the guest of honour Her Majesty's Ambassador Mr Iain Lindsay OBE. During the welcome address section of the evening, Gergely Papp made an excellent opening speech on behalf of the venue, receiving a cheer when he asked how guests liked the newly designed ballroom.
Dennis Diokno of FirstMed spoke well on the mic too, as did Eva Patzauer the Founder & Managing Director of Csodalámpa Foundation who said to guests, “Thank you once more for supporting us, and to XpatLoop.com for your help for such a long time by now too”. Next up was Stephen Linfitt the publisher of XpatLoop, who to his apparent surprise received spontaneous and hearty applause a couple of times during his speech.
With a virtual bonfire burning bright behind the stage, reflecting the warm atmosphere in the spacious ballroom, the British Ambassador referenced the UK tradition of celebrating the arrest of Guy Fawkes on 5 November 1605, which foiled the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament.
The Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ringl,
Holler boys, holler boys,
God save the King!"
His Excellency then led a Charity Choir in a special rendition of the Hungarian pop song ‘Jég Dupla Whiskyvel’, with the event MC encouraging spectators to join in, pointing out the chorus lyrics being displayed on a giant screen.
The choir was made up of a ‘super group’ of event supporters and VIPs, including Sándor Zwack, whose eponymous firm kindly ensured that Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch Whisky was on every gala table - and in the hands of many members of the chorus, as they sang well together around the fire.
This expat + Hungarian cross-cultural collaboration went down well - as did a good few double whiskies - with seasoned expats, locals and new folks in town all saying this audience participation section added a stand-out moment to the gala.
Chris Clarke, Managing Director, Clarke & White Budapest: “We had a really great evening out at the Xpatloop Bonfire Party on Saturday. It was a fantastic event, beating a lot of other gala events for expats by far!”
Everyone really got into the spirit of things from there on in, the choir clearly had a blast together with the seven piece live band, and it was said that Ambassador Lindsay’s role as lead singer was performed like a rock star, for sure with class. The whole concert crew pulled off this gig in Hungarian with gusto!
Her Majesty’s Ambassador Iain Lindsay OBE: “Well done to XpatLoop for organising a fantastic Bonfire Night party, it was the best one in my time here. A lovely event which raised an impressive total for Hungarian children’s charities. A huge thanks to all those who contributed so generously. And to all those who joined me in singing ‘Jég dupla whiskyvel’!”
Master of Ceremonies Hans Peterson then made a theatrical performance wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, reciting part of a traditional Bonfire Night Verse set to a dramatic soundtrack, which elevated the mood even higher.
Then without further ado, guests were treated to an international buffet featuring a wide range of culinary offerings provided compliments of quality restaurants and caterers.
Marriott Hotel provided yummy mini-burgers, hasselback potatoes, and coleslaw, Planet Sushi offered a selection of fresh Japanese maki, Mr Masala Indian served up delicious chicken tikka masala, a vegetarian curry, and pilau rice, Okay Italia brought authentic Italian pizza, Wan Hao provided Chinese dishes including pork bao and pastel de nata (custard tart), and Noir Chocobar offered guests indulgent delights.
Henry Csü, Project Manager, Monori Center Budapest: “Congratulations to you for all the success you have achieved this year. Both Wan Hao and Monori Center are very grateful for the opportunity and all your assistance and support for our participation. We are looking forward to next year already.”
Out on the ballroom terrace guests enjoyed BBQ dishes, along with the amazing view, cooked up by the Hillbilly Smokin' Society team, which started slow cooking from 11am to serve a fab selection of pulled mangalitsa, smoked jerk chicken, Hungarian sausages, all served with roast veg and creamy polenta.
Also outside Szomszéd Kertje GastroPub prepared gourmet delights including Ceviche, as well as serving up much loved British Lincolnshire bangers made by Wilkinson Sausages and cooked on a Yagoona Grill.
Aniko Woods, Irish-Hungarian Business Circle: “Saturday night was such a wonderful and successful event! What joy to be included in the Xpat Charity Choir and belt out that classic Hungarian tune with the British Ambassador. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a charity event that was that much fun!"
"From the choir rehearsal earlier in the week to the beautiful table at the reception - I am grateful to Stephen, other volunteers and sponsors that helped to make this a Bonfire Night to remember.”
After dinner, the ‘Deep, Smooth, & Wise’ MC Hans Peterson guided gala proceedings together with TV star, author and model Zsuzsa Demcsák.
One of the highlights was a Live Auction, and this key fundraising part of the night was handled superbly by the dynamic due, offering a great range of valuable items generously donated by the following fine folks: Austin Reed Tailors Made to Measure, Budapest Marriott Hotel, Kolibri Art Studio, Caviar & Bull, FirstMed, Dez O’Connell, Budapest Airport.
Althea Bleckley, Former Educator at Rabun County Board of Education: "I thought the Xpat Charity Ball was fabulous. Great food, great drink, and great fun! The band was fabulous and I could have danced all night. It was an exceptional event. Coming from a teacher, I believe it is our civic duty to help children in need. Last night's benefit seemed to have surpassed all others! Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
A special fundraising mention deservedly goes to Austin Reed Tailors Made to Measure as they generously decided to provide not one but two luxury 2-piece made to measure suits, made from the exclusive Escorial range of fabrics, as star auction items.
Plenty of refined refreshments ensured that revelers could remain in high spirits all evening, as Hedon showcased a great range of bottled craft beers, and Davy Byrne's Pub kindly provided bottles of Magners Cider and draft O'Hara's Irish Red craft beer all night.
Also guests were able to freely taste fine wines from: Attila Cellar from Szomolya, Villa Pátzay from Badacsony, Tamás Dúzsi’s Winery from Szekszárd, Spiegelberg Artisan Winery from Somló, Belward Winery from Pécs, Szeremley Wine House from Badacsony, and Vesztergom Winery from Balatonfüred.
As well as fresh flower decorations on every gala table, each had a great selection of soft drinks from The Coca-Cola Company, including their healthy juices and NaturAqua water.
Along with traditional Hungarian pálinka from Márton and Lányai, the GoodSpirit Bar presented a range of outstanding single-malt Scotch whiskies, which both lads and ladies enjoyed tasting.
Also there was a special pop-up display by Juliet Victor Winery featuring a lovely szamorodni and three types of furmint to try. So at the end of the day, your loyal correspondent can certainly attest that the esteemed guests did not seem to go thirsty.
Zsuzsanna Géró: "Thank you for having Juliet Victor Vineyards as part of the Xpat Charity Gala! It was a fabulous event!"
The Silent Auction presented guests with more high-quality options to help charity with donations and benefit themselves thanks to the following awesome event supporters: New York Palace Hotel Budapest, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Abama, Kempinski Hotel Adriatic Istria Croatia, Hilton Garden Inn Budapest, Corinthia Hotel Budapest, Brody House, Uncensored by Caviar & Bull, MINI, Dorka Banki, Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel, Costes, The Workshop.
Gabor Patzauer, Founder & President of Csodalampa Foundation: "Our team is greatly honoured that its mission of granting 260-300 wishes per year for very ill children is supported by XpatLoop.com readers, thank you!"
Live music in the ballroom was played during dinner by The Red Line’s Steve & Marcello, who, after last year's headline Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute, returned to play a stripped-down set of Chili Peppers favs, plus rock and pop tunes performed excellently in a laid-back fashion.
Marcus Schirrmacher, Photographer: "Ace event! Best Xpatloop doo I've been to! The whole shabang was top notch, layout great, band f'in great! Atmosphere too, well done!"
Varga Petronella: "Thank you so much for all your kindness and hospitality last night. It was such a great event and we've enjoyed it so much."
Many gala guests hit the dance floor to bop away to up-beat tunes passionately performed by Ricky Party'n Band, playing hits from their repertoire of nearly 100 international pop covers - kindly sponsored by Andonik.
Then last but not least, from around 11pm DJ Woods played pumping dance tunes, and a few slow smoochy numbers too, from the 70's, 80's & 90's, which kept folks dancing until 1am.
Andrew Woods was a smash at spinning discs, and having enjoyed the experience he graciously wrote on Facebook, "Thank you so much to XpatLoop News Hungary and Stephen Linfitt for having me DJ at the Bonfire Night Gala for Charity. Hope to see you on the dance floor again!"
The charitable gala attendees included an eclectic mix from Budapest’s business, cultural and diplomatic circles. Top tier members of the local expat community in attendance included:
Maciej Galant the Managing Director at BMW Group Hungary, Jonathan Pace the General Manager at Corinthia Hotel Budapest, Duncan Graham the Chairman of British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary, and Kam Jandu the Chief Commercial Officer of Budapest Airport, Hugo Lecanda, General Manager, The Ritz Carlton, Budapest, Manuela Brode, General Manager Hilton Garden Inn Budapest City Center, Andrea Butkovics, CEO and co-owner of Colling Accounting and Controlling Ltd., Tibor Jancsó, Managing Director, AGS Pro, Mo Ortiz, Owner of Arriba Taqueria and Iguana, Michele Orzan from EU Cham, and Károly Bosznai Sales and Sponsorship Director, Hungexpo.
As well as all the networking, and dancing, party people had a chance to relax too in the chill-out corner, sponsored by ThaiProfiMassage.com, arranged by the organisers to give guests fresh vitality and boost event energy levels further.
Like at other Xpatloop events the atmosphere was buzzing, there were smiles all around the room on the faces of people from around the globe, and accordingly a multitude of reunions, introductions and handy contacts - both business and social.
Those who went to town on drinks and/or eats could console themselves with the welcome gift, which was received by all guests upon arrival, of a complimentary week long pass to the Fitness & Health Club by Marriott Budapest, worth around HUF 20,000.
Given the suggested donation for participation in the gala was HUF 12.500 per person, guests said they got fab value for a great night, and were glad to party for charity with friends and new faces - while enjoying more entertainment and refreshments than at other events with higher price tags.
Tibor Jancsó, Managing Director, AGS Pro: “Such a great event, this was by far the best I attended in the last years! The entertainment programs, the atmosphere, the participating guests, the food, drink and service, everything was really great. Much bigger companies and event organizers could learn from you :) I guess it was not easy, and you invested a lot of time in it, but it was worth it!”
The evening was capped with a business card prize draw, providing a nice reward for attendees who supported a very good cause all through the evening, with prizes donated by:
BrodyLand, Budapest Airport, City Taxi, Good Spirit Bar, Magnolia Day Spa, Hungarian State Opera, Trattoria Toscana, Adam Goodman, Iguana Mexican Restaurant, Trattoria Toscana, Hilton Budapest Castle's LÁNG Bistro & Grill, and more.
Rob Longworth, Owner, Trattoria Toscana Restaurant: "A huge congratulations to Stephen, Melinda and all those involved in helping organise the event. Very well done indeed, happy to have been able to contribute even a little."
After giving out prizes the founder of XpatLoop and organiser of this charity event for 15+ years, Stephen Linfitt enthusiastically thanked everyone involved.
As well as all the great supporters mentioned, thanks are due to Bitia Berta, Nick Harris, Beáta Kovács, Emőke Lőrinc, Sára Matolcsy, British Embassy, Endorphine Flowers, GoldLaser, and InfoGuide.
On the night Stephen noted that everyone can feel good as the event’s deserved winners are local charities supporting children in need, and then he finally got to join the crowd on the dance floor!
Words and photos by Russell Skidmore
Additional photos by Marcus Schirrmacher