11th Szekler Horse Fiesta [Interview+ PHOTOS]

The 11. Szeklerland Horse Fiesta took place in Gyergyószentmiklós/Gheorgheni last weekend. The unique event, which aims to bring the horses and other animals closer to the Székely people attracted about 15,000 visitors during its three days. We asked the mastermind and main organizer of the event, three-time Driving National Champion for Pairs, Tibor Bajkó about this year’s fiesta, about the beginnings, and about his recently published book.

Tibor Bajkó
Masterminds and main organizers of the event: three-time Driving National Champion for Pairs, Tibor Bajkó and his wife, Ildikó Bajkó from Krieger Sport Klub. (Photo: TransylvaniaNOW, István Vajk Szigeti)

TransylvaniaNOW: How did this year’s event go?

Tibor Bajkó: First of all I would like to tell you that we are very grateful for the Virgin Mary of Csíksomlyó for helping our event with the beautiful weather we had during the three days. For ten years the fiesta used to be a two-day long event, and this was the first time we expanded it into three days. We had 102 different programs, including 22 permanent ones – which could be seen in tents – and 80 others following each other on the field.  Spectators could see dog and horse shows, different races – including, for example, the Szeklerland Show Jumping Regional Championship – and several cultural programs as well. We had performers from Szeklerland, from other parts of Transylvania, from the motherland (Hungary), and even from Bulgaria.

We consider the Szeklerland Horse Fiesta similar to the work of a coach-and-four. It means that each and every element of the coach-and-four is essential in order to have a successful event. Our coach-and-four stands from the visitors, the performers/competitors, the organizers, and the supporters.

Show jumping competition
Show jumping competition (Photo: TransylvaniaNOW, István Vajk Szigeti)

TN: How did the fiesta start more than a decade ago?

T.B.: I dreamed up this event together with my wife twelve years ago. For the first six years it was called “Gyergyó Horse Days”, but after realizing that visitors and performers came not only from the Gyergyó Basin, but from other parts of Szeklerland as well, we renamed it to Szeklerland Horse Fiesta.

The idea of organizing an event like this came to me during a carriage driving race, here in Gyergyószentmiklós in 2007. I was not only competing, butalso the main organizer of the race, and I had realized that both cannot be done at the same time. My mind was distracted during my own race as I was looking the sides of the track with the organizer’s eye, and because of this I committed multiple errors on the course. That was the moment when I decided that I will never do this again. I will never participate in a race as a competitor, and be the organizer of the event at the same time. I separated the two. And on one hand – thanks to the mighty Lord and the great teamwork we had – in the forthcoming years I won the National Championship of Driving for Pairs three times, and by this I received the sport-master title as well.

On the other hand we sat down with my wife and discussed that we should organize an event which would bring closer the horses to the people. After visiting similar events in Hungary and in Western Europe we agreed creating something similar, but something different as well at the same time. Something which cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and I think we achieved this goal. Our event is unique in my opinion because nobody else puts together such a colorful program like we do.

Csikós Show
Csikós (Wrangler) Show. (Photo: TransylvaniaNOW, István Vajk Szigeti)

TN: What are you the most proud of from the past twelve years?

T.B.: The cooperation. I’m very proud of the cooperation shown by our supporters -we have more than 150- coming from our region including enterprises, clubs, NGOs, commoners, and banks. And I’m also very proud of the cooperation with our co-organizers, the Council of Gyergyószentmiklós and the Hargita County Council. And I would like to mention our strategic partner, the Government of Hungary – via the Bethlen Gábor Foundation.

Transylvanian Horse Stuntmen
Transylvanian Horse Stuntmen show. (Photo: TransylvaniaNOW, István Vajk Szigeti)

TN: You even wrote a book about the Szeklerland Horse Fiesta, which was published a few weeks ago. What should we know about it?

T.B.: I had been planning to write this book for years, but it never happened. Then earlier this year I suffered a serious horse accident and I had to spend quite some time in bed. I wrote the book during this period, while my wife helped me get back on my feet. The 226-page book – including almost 200 pictures as well – gives a behind-the-scenes insight for its readers about the event, about it’s more than ten-year-long history and also shares some thoughts from the author’s life philosophy.

As a result of the positive feedback I received after the publication from different people, I am planning to write another one, hopefully next year. Because I’m also the speaker of another horse related event, the Székely Gallop, the planned title of this future book is: “Székely Gallop from behind the microphone”.

Dog show
Dog show (Photo: TransylvaniaNOW, István Vajk Szigeti)
Show jumping competition
Show jumping competition (Photo: TransylvaniaNOW, István Vajk Szigeti)


Title image: Transylvanian Horse Stuntmen show on the second day of the 11. Székely Land Horse Fiesta. August 31. 2019. (Photo: TransylvaniaNOW, István Vajk Szigeti)


Author: Attila Szoó