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Helikon monument

Helikon Park, Keszthely

The largest green area of Keszthely is the Helikon Park, gradually established at the beginning of the 20th century. The domed building of the monument of Helikon celebrations, erected in 1921, is located in the middle of the park. Count György Festetics organised the literary celebrations, based on the German model, in Keszthely, in the centre of his estates. Between 1817 and 1819, two celebrations were held each year: the first on 12th February, on the birthday of King Francis I, and the other one on 21st May, around the dates of Georgikon exams. The old count invited the landlords of Transdanubia, writers and scientists to the celebrations. On the eve of the celebrations, a theatrical performance was held in the grammar school, and the town was lit. The next day, the programme began with a holy Mass followed by a ceremonial assembly, where the teachers and students of Georgikon gave performances in Hungarian, German and Latin languages, recited poetry, and sang songs in Hungarian and German. Most of the works were occasional emphasising mostly the glory of the reigning House, sometimes the merits of the Festetics Family, and stressing the importance of agriculture. In the framework of the celebrations, a concert, a glorious feast, and a ball were held, trees were planted in remembrance of former Hungarian writers, and the count awarded prizes and writer's scholarships. The last Helikon celebrations took place in February 1819 since the count died nearly two months later.

In 1957, on the 140th anniversary of the festivities, three inhabitants full of local pride, Elemér Merényi, director of the cultural centre, Dr Károly Sági, museum director and Dr András Szabolcs economist, decided to try to resume the cultural event of the youth in a special social situation. The first Helikon of the second half of the 20th century could take place in May 1958, with the participation of eleven schools of ten towns. After 1963, the Helikon of secondary school students were held only in every second year and in the 1970s and 80s, the event began to fade. The number of participants gradually declined, the event became increasingly politicized.

Renewal and the return to tradition began in the nineties. The town set up a foundation for the organization of the Helikon celebrations. The group of the Helikon Organizing Committee, composed of volunteers, and the Goldmark Károly Cultural Center, carry out the brunt of the practical work. However, this great event could not be realised without the help of the local students and teachers, the institutions organising the programmes and the categories, the supporters, sponsors, co-operating partners, the prevailing leaders of the town and the NGOs.

Following the cautious beginnings, the most recent Helikon celebrations have attracted more and more secondary schools and students. From 1998 onwards, the organizers extended the invitation to the entire Transdanubia, and by the year 2000, the number of categories increased to 18. In 2004, the event became international with the participation of the representatives of twin town schools,  and the number of participants exceeded 4,000 on the 50th anniversary in 2008.