The Strand Festival kicked off in Zamárdi at Lake Balaton with a full house, this year in thematic format, evoking the world of circuses this year. Also, starting what is perhaps a new tradition, the organisers evaluated the summer season in an unconventional conversation on the festival grounds on Thursday.
Norbert Lobenwein, one of the founders of the festival, stated that despite preparing for sheer survival before the season, the Strand Festival started its first day with a full house and a lot of people are expected for the weekend as well.
Following the Wednesday Day 0, which had only a few programmes at certain venues, on Thursday, Day 1, the main stages of the Strand Festival hosted performances by Azahriah, Krúbi, Dzsúdló, Hősök, Irie Maffia, Beton.Hofi, as well as Next Level productions (Gemcamp, Dublic, Luude, B’andre, and Skrude). On Friday, Carson Coma, Halott Pénz, Follow The Flow, Blahalouisiana, Hiperkarma, and Wellhello will perform, while on Saturday, Byealex and the Slepp, Bagossy Brothers Company, Majka, Margaret Island, Valmar, Rosa Linn, Purple Disco Machine, and Andrea Lane will take the stage.
Strand Festival Director Ádám Kata noted during the Thursday walkthrough that the organisers are welcoming the audience with various creative programmes, two main stages, an artist quarter, and circus venues. Artists have designed decorations that will allow the participants to feel a sense of community and which make the festival more endearing.
The Budapest Circus also joined the festival with numerous productions, including spectacular juggling and tightrope dancing shows during the intervals between performers on the main stages. Péter Fekete, the director of the Budapest Circus, stated that their message, which revolves around hard work, mutual attention, and the wonders achievable through human strength, resonates with the festivalgoers.
The UNICEF programme against school bullying will also be present at the Strand Festival. The campaign aimed at young people, involving well-known local musicians, was presented by Borbála Nagy-Balás, a child rights associate at UNICEF, during the Thursday press event. She emphasised that bullying and abuse among peers can lead to tragedy if young people do not receive timely assistance.
Beni Bánki, the host of the Strand Festival, described the lakeside environment of Lake Balaton as incomparable. He noted that the secret of popular bands among young people lies in their ability to connect more directly with their target audience in the online space.
Mayor of Zamárdi Gyula Csákovics highlighted that the Strand Festival is a season-extending programme that the Balaton region needs even more now than before. He indicated that thanks to the Strand Festival, Zamárdi will once again have a full house at the end of August. Csákovics pointed out that the town could not have developed at such a pace in the past decades without providing a venue for so many festivals. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that the town had less income in the two quieter years, resulting in fewer developments in the lakeside city.
MOL Nagyon Balaton is the umbrella organisation coordinating the best festivals held at or near the Lake Balaton, the chief sponsor which is Hungarian oil giant MOL. In synergy with it, Best of Balaton ranks the various catering establishments located at the Hungarian Sea, and a 13-member-board of trustees selects the very best ones, promoting them to local and foreign visitors alike. MOL Nagyon Balaton and Best of Balaton head Panna Váncza highlighed on Thursday that there were full-house programmes this year at the Paloznaki Jazzpiknik, VeszprémFest, Veszprémi Utcazene Fesztivál, Kékszalag, Ultrabalaton, and the Valley of Arts (Művészetek Völgye), indicatingd that the audiences have returned and the downturn of the previous Covid and post-Covid years has been overcome.
She added that the Best of Balaton list, which started two years ago, has expanded with 22 new entries this year, and the award ceremony will be held on Saturday at the Strand Festival.