The NIGHT IN BUDAPEST was a celebration with an ethnic flavor to commemorate the Hungarian Freedom Fighters who defied Russian tanks in their homeland in 1956. The gala event, begun in 1957 by Cleveland council president JACK RUSSELL, focused attention on Hungarian culture and on Hungarian-Americans. In its first few years, Night in Budapest was held in the Bethlen Hall on East Blvd. and Buckeye with a 7-course dinner prepared by neighborhood women and served by waitresses in native costume. The atmosphere for the evening was completed by Hungarian orchestras and strolling musicians. The demand for tickets grew until the annual event moved to larger quarters at the Hotel Sheraton, where 1,500-2,000 diners could be accommodated. Over time the guest list for the Night in Budapest became a Who's Who of the Cleveland political community.
Besides the food, music, and camaraderie, the Night also featured entertainment by a Hollywood star, usually of Hungarian origin, and a presentation of awards to 2 local and 2 nationally prominent persons. Chaired by movie producer Joe Pasternak, the cast of stars over the years included Tony Martin, Jimmy Durante, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Paul Anka. Prominent local guests included Browns tackle Lou (The Toe) Groza, Judge Blanche Krupansky, Gray Drug president Adolph Weinberger, and Press editor LOUIS B. SELTZER. The Night in Budapest, subsidized personally by Russell, was discontinued in 1973. The event, however, started a trend toward celebrations by other ethnic groups in Cleveland.