Usually, Children's Meetings are officially started on a Sunday on the main square of Kecskemét. As a custom, several groups go on stage to present a brief selection of their performances. The Mayor of Kecskemét hands the town keys to the two youngest children at that year's Meeting, a boy and a girl, then dozens of balloons reach the sky with a fanfare that indicates the beginning of a week's wonders.
In the mornings and in the afternoons from Monday to Friday the visiting groups perform their programmes on the Main Square stage to the great enjoyment of the inhabitants of Kecskemét, the guest children and many tourists who often spend hours watching the shows. During the week each group comes on stage 2-3 times.
The evening programmes could be named after Europe's music and dances since each evening a different band comes on stage to play which is often followed by teaching dances to the audience. The Bohém Ragtime Band has been a recurring guest of the Children's Meeting, and many of them were devoted participants of the 1991 Children's Meeting. The Csík band's concert and the Hungarian dance hall following the inauguration ceremony have become a tradition throughout the years. The concert and dances of the Syrtos band has also been a real attraction of the Festival from the beginnings. The Budapest Klezmer Band, which was hardly known when a decade ago they first came to the Festival, has by now become internationally famous. They accepted the invitation in 2004 again with pleasure, since their performances always receive a warm welcome by the audience of the crowded Main Square. Regular performer of our festival are the Zurgó ensemble and the Musical Studio of Tapolca. We also had the pleasure to welcome Besh O'drom, "Álmodozók" Student Theatre from Komarno, Vujicsics orchestra, M.É.Z. orchestra in our festival.
In 2002 a new programme was included in the Festival. Following the evening concert of 'Europe's Music' the 'Little Night Music' begins among the ruins of the old cloister next to the Brethrens' Church. It starts at 10 with choirs singing among the ruins lit only by torches which together with the music creates a special atmosphere. Evening by evening more than a thousand music lovers came to cheer among others the Belgian and Dutch choirs and they hardly let the singers go off stage. In the last years there were several successful concerts of Navrang, David Yengibarjan from Armenia, the Serbian 'Őstermelők Orkestra' and the choirs from Belgium and the Netherlands.
From morning to late in the evening many children either guests or living in Kecskemét have a range of different programmes to choose from. For many years the tent of the Alternative English School has been one of the most popular places where the youngsters can test their knowledge through different quizzes and contests. The excitement of the games are further enhanced since the results are only announced on the last day of the Festival and only then do the winners receive their prizes. Those interested in handicraft workshops are to go to the Youth Centre in Kecskemét while the more adventurous can try old games like walking on stilts. At the VIII. Children's Meeting there was even a climbing wall set up and the bravest could test their strength and courage. In the IT tent — set up with the sponsorship of the Ministry of Information Technology and Communication — several computers were placed at the youngsters' disposal to e-mail to their parents or chat with their friends back home, or just browse on the Internet.
It is no accident the day both the children and adults look forward to most is the picnic day which is organised on the day before the last day of the meeting. Maybe it is too much to say 'organised' since it is the day which provides the possibility of abandoned relaxation without any restrictions. Fortunately the weather was kind to us on each of the four meetings so far and there were scorching days on all the stew-pot parties.
The tradition of the children spending a half day at Manor Pongrácz in Kerekegyháza was established in the year of the first Csiperó Meeting. The owner, Mr Imre Vörösmarty offers this gift every year to the participating children who can enjoy the real Puszta feeling at this place nearly 25 km from Kecskemét. They can taste traditional scones baked in an out-door furnace, watch a horse show, go for a pleasant ride in a carriage, ride a horse, have a look at the stables, draw water from a sweep-pole well, gain first hand experience of a lifestyle familiar to the kids in town only from stories.
Another custom is to celebrate all foreign and Hungarian participants - children and adults - who have their birthdays during the Meeting. Their gift is a short variety show based on the original performances. These parties originally took place in the local Ferenc Erdei Cultural Centre, then were moved to József Katona Theatre, and nowadays are hosted by the supermarket Tesco which provides birthday cakes.
It was in 1993 that the first "Csillagszemű" camp was organised following the idea of Gábor Farkas' late first wife, Andrea. She suggested inviting some kindergarten teachers from over the borders for the time of the children's meeting and organising a series of separate professional programmes for them. The first camp proved to be so successful that it has been regularly organised ever since, having each gathering deal with certain professional questions.
Right from the beginning many Hungarian groups living beyond the borders participated in the Future of Europe International Children and Youths Meeting. Representatives from Máramarossziget, Transylvania have been coming to every Festival since 1991. Already in 1991 five Hungarian groups from beyond the borders and two years later eight such groups only from Slovakia participated. In 1995 and 2000 five and seven groups respectively came from Transylvania to perform on the Main Square, and besides, Hungarian children came from the former Yugoslavia too. Throughout the years we had the pleasure to welcome Hungarian children from such surprising countries as the Netherlands and the United States.
The Treasure Hunting Camp is a follow-up program for teenage journalists, which will be organised by the Treasure Hunting Association. Along with the Children's Meetings, the camp has been held each year where young apprentices can learn and apply the basics of journalism. The results are made public at the end of the week in a booklet of the interviews, reports, and pictures entitled CSIPERO.K. An interesting program is "Lapozgató" ('Browser'), an exhibition of international children magazines during the camp. Right from its beginning the organiser and the leader of the camp is Márta Koleszár.