Attending Paprika! is like taking a trip to Budapest – totally immersive, gracefully sophisticated in a charming, old-world style, not to mention a delightful way to sample Hungarian dishes, aperitifs, culture and dancing.
This 27th annual event organized by the Cleveland Hungarian Development Panel (CHDP) was a celebration recognizing The Cleveland Play House, represented by managing director, Kevin Moore, for its many artistic collaborations. In 1938, for example, the Play House presented “Liliom,” a legendary production by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar, and the basis for the classic American musical “Carousel.” More recently, the artistic director of the Hungarian National Theatre staged Molnar’s comedy ”The Guardsman” at the Play House, as one of a series of collaborations throughout the 1990s and beyond.
The Ritz-Carlton offered a warm welcome to nearly 150 guests of varying generations, giving the event the vibe of a family reunion crossed with a friendly block party, where everyone knows nearly everyone else. During the cocktail hour and silent auction bidding, patrons enjoyed lángos (deep-fried flatbread) and sonkával töltött gomba (mushrooms stuffed with smoked ham and cheese), while sampling iced apricot brandy decanted through an ice sculpture depicting the masks of comedy and tragedy, another nod to the Play House.
More fantastic, authentic food awaited inside the stunning dining room. After dinner, the Viva Dance Studio led an opening dance, with music provided throughout the evening by Harmonia, local musicians specializing in folk and gypsy music from Eastern Europe.
The black-tie event is the work of CHDP volunteers who promote and support educational and cultural ties between Americans and Hungarians. Created after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1990, the organization has donated to the Cleveland Hungarian Cultural Garden, International Children’s Games Cleveland, toward care for the elderly and young students, as well as providing scholarships to students at the high school and college levels both in Northeast Ohio and in Hungary. Paprika! is the organization’s main source of income to support these projects throughout the years. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY RITA KUEBER