- 9 Nov 2023 4:45 PM
* See Virtuoso Party Photos by Marko Novkov here
* Super Snaps of Gala Action by Marcus Schirrmacher here
* Brilliant Bonfire Night Party Pictures by Árpád Bakcsy are here
* Fab Fireworks Night Photos by John Galvin of PartyBooth are here
* Fun Shots by Samsung Hungary are here of fab Xpat Folks Fundraising
Video shot by Connall Charlton, edited by Marko Novkov - live stream by Jason Leung.
Expats and locals came together for fun and fundraising in the Grand Ballroom of the Budapest Marriott Hotel, and the smart casual gala was one to 'Remember, Remember' as many guests partied into the early hours of the 5th of November after a night full of live entertainment.
Here's an eventful review by Peterjon Cresswell: A warm, friendly and exciting atmosphere prevailed all night, as the event unified and entertained guests from all around the globe.
There wasn’t a free seat in the house at this annual fixture in the expat calendar, as over 200 guests and dignitaries gathered to bid for prizes to support local charities – once more, XpatLoop’s big night out was fully booked and a huge hit.
There were a multitude of introductions, reunions, and business contacts made among the attendees - a great mix from Hungary’s business, cultural, educational and diplomatic circles.
A 007 theme to mark James Bond's 70th birthday gave the event a twist, and this year’s smart casual bash also celebrated the anniversary of XpatLoop.com empowering Hungary’s international community online for 23 years.
As is the tradition, Bonfire Night festivities take place on the nearest Saturday to 5 November when firework parties light up the skies across the UK and in many countried around the world.
Here in Budapest, the James Bond theme tune played in the ballroom as consummate Master of Ceremonies Hans Peterson – “Hold on to your Martinis!” – kick-started the event by raising a glass to the UK’s iconic spy and to Hungary's leading expat portal XpatLoop.
Partying like Bond in Budapest on Bonfire Night
As guests arrived they passed an Aston Martin DBX707 - the world's most powerful luxury SUV - parked outside the hotel as 007's favourite car brand was featured in the Live Auction as a 'priceless' star prize.
007 style tuxedos featured among the crowd, while other guests dressed up as a famous baddie like Blofeld or as a Bond babe.
After a Red Carpet Photo experience many tried their luck at the roulette and blackjack tables in the welcome area which added a Casino Royale feeling.
To ensure a sparkling welcome, since Bond enjoyed Champagne guests were offered a glass of bubbles from Count Degenfeld Winery - nothing less than their gold award winner at the recent Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships - an Organic Extra Brut from 2019.
In the ballroom TV star Zsuzsa Demcsák took to the stage with MC Hans, and they guided guests through event proceedings with energy, professionalism, and a good sense of humour.
Alongside them on stage sparkled a collection of gleaming Oscar statuettes, which complimented the event's extra film theme, all awaiting presentation to special supporters of XpatLoop events over the years.
First up in the welcome address, Arne Klehn the GM of the Budapest Marriott Hotel said,
"We’re here to raise funds for charities like the Csodalámpa Foundation, as well as to raise our glasses. It's great to celebrate with all the stars here tonight, the many generous spirits in attendance.
Let's get this party started with a toast to the kids who benefit from your generosity. Cheers to a successful event here again!"
The event organiser Stephen Linfitt thanked everyone involved, he warmly welcomed guests and invited gala supporters to the stage to receive an Oscar along with well-deserved recognition and praise for their special contributions.
Main sponsor this year was B+N, the leading facilities management company in Hungary. As usual their special agent joined in with good spirits, and won a star prize in the name-card draw.
FirstMed were the Platinum Sponsor this year, and Samsung were the returning Gold Sponsor.
Dennis A. Diokno, Founder and CEO of FirstMed, was presented with a Star Award along with a loyalty certificate, and he was moved to say,
“I remember speaking with Stephen Linfitt when XpatLoop.com was still a concept. As an entrepreneur, I greatly appreciate Stephen and his team’s hard work in creating XpatLoop and turning it into the success it is today.
Partnering with XpatLoop for over 20 years, I've witnessed the fantastic work that it has done for the expat community. The FirstMed team loves all your extraordinary events and fundraising for charitable organisations. I look forward to working with you for many years”.
Another exceptional guest speaker in the welcome address was Éva Patzauer, co-founder of a children’s charity, the Csodalámpa / Magic Lamp Foundation, which makes thousands of wishes come true for youngsters with life-threatening conditions.
Réka Ragi was a child cancer patient flown by Csodalámpa to London to fulfill her wish of meeting Hollywood star Johnny Depp. Inspired and well recovered, she was welcomed to the stage to help present the Oscar statuettes sponsored by Madame Tussauds Budapest.
A nice touch indeed, as there couldn't have been a better person than Réka to do so since these Oscar winners have helped many seriously ill children like her via the annual Xpat Charity Gala.
Réka also helped to select the seven winners in a free business card draw, who won movie goodie bags from Mid Atlantic Films and a star prize worth HUF 70,007 from Jouri - the newly opened, one and only Moroccan restaurant in Budapest.
Matt Kirlew from the British Embassy made a great speech next, afterwards he said,
"Delighted to attend this Bonfire Night celebration with XpatLoop.com marking the 23-year milestone! A fantastic event, bringing the expat community together and raising funds for a number of worthy causes. I'm already looking forward to the next one!”
Standing in for Paul Fox, UK Ambassador to Hungary, who was unable to attend again for family reasons, Matt offered entertaining insight into the legend of Bonfire Night, and the attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London on 5 November, 1605.
Long remembered with firework parties across the UK, the event chimes with the annual XpatLoop Charity Party, as fondly acknowledged previously by Ambassador Fox,
“As a Brit and as ambassador, I am proud that XpatLoop.com has held celebrations for Bonfire Night for over a decade. Not only have they been some of the best parties in town, but also events that have raised incredible amounts of funds for a number of worthy causes”.
VIP dignitaries able to attend this year included Ragnar Almqvist the Irish Ambassador to Hungary, Kam Jandu the CEO of Budapest Airport, Georgina Szilágyi the Country Director of the British Council Hungary, Duncan Graham the Chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce, and István Kardos the Secretary General of the Hungarian Red Cross.
Attending again, Désirée Bonis the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Hungary said,
"What an utter pleasure to participate in the 2023 edition of the annual Xpat Charity Event. The team at XpatLoop certainly know how to put together a good crowd and a good show!
Once again this festive evening was a great networking opportunity, during which I met some interesting people from the private and public sectors alike.
Absolutely wonderful to know that the proceeds of the evening are to benefit some excellent organisations working for the greater good, Keep up the good work, I am truly happy to be part of the XpatLoop community!”
Bonfire night packed with entertainment
Guy Fawkes and James Bond combined to inspire the entertainment, including a virtual bonfire and fireworks display by Special Effects on a huge LED wall and main stage big screen.
Next was a sparkling light dance production set to 007 music by an all-female quartet from the Eleven Light Dance Show team.
Guests were treated to a fresh ‘Deluxe Light Show’ by the dancers featuring state-of-the-art Visual Poi devices.
These talented ladies also performed a Fire Dance out on the terrace later on - guests could watch outside or see the show in the ballroom via a live feed shot by Infinitum Films.
The Bond theme continued with multi-instrumental Just Show Band playing a good few 007 tunes during dinner. This popular band averages 250 performances per year, during which they travel nearly 100,000 kilometres on land, water and air.
While a big cake was wheeled-out these globe-trotters also performed a happy birthay tune to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of XpatLoop, followed by a second set featuring party hits to get guests dancing. The band proved popular, they're available for Xmas party bookings by the way!
Live music also included live pop and funky tunes in the welcome room by Fruzsina and Badman.
Later there was a dazzling rendition of Adele’s 007 Skyfall song by Valerie Divine, who joined in the party after her performance and had plenty of photos taken with guests.
Keeping it real tasty
This year the international buffet included Levantine delicacies by Leila’s Authentic Lebanese Cuisine and a sublime daal maharani and more first-class Indian dishes by Indigo Restaurant.
Plus a Vegan version of traditional Hortobágy pancakes and Vegan Sushi went down well thanks to Vegan Garden. Marriott Budapest joined in the international culinary extravaganza with American style hot dogs with crispy onions and fries on the side this year. Tesco was also a welcome food sponsor again, providing a wide range of salad options and sweets.
A spectacular display of imaginative and varied Asian dishes - for both carnivores and omnivores - by Opium Restaurant delighted guests taste-buds, and there were Chinese treats from long time event supporter Wan Hao.
Outside on the terrace there were grilled dishes like Pulled Pork and Chicken Skewers by Hillbilly Smokin' Society, plus a great selection of grilled cheese by Hajdúsajt.
Diners then made a beeline for the prominent display set up by Cloud9 IceCream Desserts, whose divine sweet treats were best left – how? – for five minutes before opening, according to the company founder Márk Janovszky. Brave enough to open his business during the pandemic, he’s now bold enough to handle the logistic of exporting his premium products to Japan.
British style party snacks were displayed around the ballroom thanks to Kifli.hu, there were both sweet and salty snacks from Fornetti, and plum jam pastries from Jókenyér. Staying with blissful indulgence, moreish guilt-free sweets were provided by the Zsolnay Café.
A good mention deserves to be made about the traditional British scones served with buttercream and jam by A Házipék. Their team also provided a variety of luxury local scones (Pogácsa) including truffle, green pesto, and mangalica tepertő all night.
A celebration like this in Budapest couldn’t happen without authentic Hungarian fruit pálinka, this one came with the Márkházi mark of quality. Cider and draught IPA came courtesy of the James Joyce pub.
Among the free-flowing drinks, the good people from the GoodSpirit Bar laid on a single-malt whisky tasting and plentiful G&Ts, while Ruin Brew’s draft beer and jell-o shots also hit the spot.
Plus, Ruin Brew served up Chicken Waffle Canapés in the welcome room, and the team from James Joyce pub also personally provided tasty canapés as guests arrived - including a special 'Full Irish Breakfast' appetiser
To wash it all down well there was a range of Coca-Cola soft drinks, speciality coffee from DeLonghi, and water by NaturAqua. The Marriott team did a great job of refreshing the soft drinks display all night.
A phalanx of winemakers lined the grand ballroom window wall - showing amazing views of the city - a veritable who’s who from the industry, each one based in Hungary and rightly proud of it.
In no particular order, the producers ran from the Bock Cellar team from Villány, the Tamás Dúzsi Winery from Szekszárd, the Gróf Degenfeld Winery from Mád/Tarcal, the Gilvesy Winery from Szent György Hill near Balaton, Hilltop from Neszmély, the Jammertal Wine Estate from Villány, the Koch Winery from Hajós-Bajai & Villányi.
Plus there were fine wines from Pajzos from Tokaj, the Polgár Family Winery from Villány, TóthBorbirtok from Pannonhalma, the Spiegelberg Artisan Winery from Somló and the Szeremley Wine House from Badacsony by Lake Balaton. With glasses well filled, guests were well prepared to now dig deep for… (drum roll!) the live auction!
Bidding like Bond for the greater good
Up for grabs were seven experiences fit for any globetrotting 007 agent. Successful bidders could look forward to test driving a DBX707 and keep a special Aston Martin Vantage Matchbox toy car F1 edition signed by star driver Fernando Alonso.
Second prize worth HUF 3 Million was an overnight stay for two in the Presidential Suite at the new five-star Dorothea Hotel, Budapest, Autograph Collection in the heart of the city.
Another exceptional overnight stay was provided by the Platán Manor beside historic Tata Castle, with a 12-course tasting menu with wine pairings for two at the two Michelin-starred Platan Gourmet restaurant alongside.
Potential James Bonds could also breeze through Budapest Airport in comfort and luxury thanks to a VIP package for two through Departures & Arrivals.
Health-conscious guests bidded to stay in shape with fitness classes at an NGO called SUHANJ! thanks to Helpers Hungary, with Duncan Graham winning this auction battle.
Also sold were a 'Komplex Health Screening' from Dr. Rose Private Hospital and a one-year health plan from FirstMed - with a bottle of fine wine thrown in for good measure in each case.
The Art Auction was both beautifully and thoughtfully presented by award-winning actress Kata Domján, it showcased works by local artists Dorottya Banki, Mária Gyurics, Krisztina Major + Bernard B. Fekete. To see the full list of prizes at this event - such as those from Hilton Budapest, FirstMed, Indigo, W Hotel Budapest - you can see the online invitation here.
Of the Silent Auction prizes, guests won many great stays, for example in a suite plus dinner for two at Spago Budapest at the Matild Palace Budapest, at the Mystery Hotel with breakfast and access to the Secret Garden Day Spa, at the Anantara New York Palace, at Catherine's Cottages with private pool and massages for two, also at Brody House and at Hotel Visegrád.
Plus, a two-night stay for two was won at the Thermál Hotel Visegrád, on a half-board basis including wellness access. Other goodies included a custom-made sweater in cashmere by Milán Kelecsényi, four box tickets at the Natiional Opera House, Sunday Brunch for four at the Marriott Hotel, and vouchers for Planet Sushi Restaurant and for Blue Fox The Bar by Kempinski.
The Hungarian Red Cross (Magyar Vöröskereszt) held a silent auction on their display table and arranged a special goat's cheese tasting.
The Csodalámpa Foundation also held a silent auction on their display table next to FirstMed, and expressed gratitude to event guests,
“Our team is greatly honoured that its mission of granting hundreds of wishes every year for very sick children is supported by XpatLoop.com readers. Thank you!"
Naturally the event’s success is thanks to many 'special agent' guests entering into the spirit of the occasion, which they did and had a blast, like regular event attendee Neil McGarry the principal of Britannica International School, Budapest - who as usual generously participated in the auction fundraising and party action.
Britannica was the event Silver Sponsor again this year, and once more the awesome audio-visual sponsor was Special Effects. Bronze sponsors were Aston Martin Budapest, British International School Budapest, Dr. Rose Private Hospital. All the leading international schools in Budapest attended, including event supporter AISB.
This year, since 007 always looks so very well dressed, Milán Kelecsényi put on a fine display at the gala of the new men’s clothing label to watch in Budapest. To especially please the ladies there were beautiful floral autumn inspired table decorations by flowerMe.
The charity raffle arranged and presented by Chris Clarke and Nikki Truesdale included a star prize courtesy Clarke & White and many more treats worth winning. Raffle proceeds went to Food Bank Aid to help Ukrainian Refugees in Budapest.
A much appreciated returning sponsor this year was Samsung, which operated a special mobile phone and photography installation which proved popular with guests who received a branded party photo on the spot.
Also all evening there was a popular 'Wine Mafia Game', in which participants could win wines and more presented by Bortodoor City.
To work off any extra calories gained at the party, or to help heal any hangovers, everyone got a Free Day Pass for the Fitness & Health Club by Marriott.
Other such free gifts for guests included a HUF 20.000 Voucher for Las Vegas Casino Tropicana in Budapest and a HUF 50,000 Voucher for Dr. Rose Private Hospital. Plus many guests also took away a framed photo of themselves at the event shot by John Galvin of PartyBooth.
Before carriages pulled up outside the Marriott at 1am, DJ Woods played pop, rock and dance hits to keep the Bonfire Night shindig burning well into Sunday the 5th of November.
Guest feedback was super positive - many regulars agreed it was the best ever - Barbara Ürögdi the Co-Founder and General Manager of Helpers Hungary said,
“The team at Helpers have been attending XpatLoop’s events for nearly two decades and it is always great to see the community come together and enjoy a great night at a scenic location. Thank you all at XpatLoop.com for your hospitality and friendship!”
First time guest Sophia Verykios, PTA Chairperson & Gala Coordinator at BISB, said,
"It was a wonderful evening getting together with likeminded people to support a range of valuable causes across a good spectrum of needs.
The event seamlessly wove together the various elements to their best advantage. The rich entertainment programme and the range of food and drinks were very impressive!"
“For 10 years we have participated as one of the main beneficiaries at this event, great people, great mood, and great organisation.
It's really a touching how many guests stand with us to make more and more very ill children happy. We hope to see you next year, cheers!”
Words by Peterjon Cresswell
Peterjon has been researching the byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website liberoguide.com
Photos by Marko Novkov, Marcus Schirrmacher, Árpád Bakcsy, John Galvin, Samsung Hungary.