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Sziget breaks all-time attendance record

The 2009 Sziget festival in Budapest posted record total attendance of 390,000, surpassing the former all-time high by 5,000, the festival's press director informed MTI.

Sziget's 2009 profits will likely exceed last year's profit of HUF 100 million (€369,846), festival organizer Károly Gerendai said in an interview with MTI on Sunday, the last day of the event.

Costs of this year's Sziget Festival came to HUF 2.65 billion, Gerendai said.

The global economic crisis had a “reverse effect” on 2009 visitor numbers, Gerendai said. “There is a kind of concentration around the bigger festivals. Sure everybody feels the crisis, but they are not foregoing the big events, but the smaller ones.”

The number of foreign festival-goers at this year's Sziget has grown, while the number of Hungarians has remained unchanged from last year, Gerendai said. Advertising and new offerings, such as party trains from the Netherlands and France, as well as VIP camping, have drawn more foreigners to the Sziget, while discounts, such as the half-price evening ticket and the student ticket were aimed at Hungarian visitors, he added.

Answering a question, Gerendai said the festival organizers had prepared for the danger of H1N1: several disinfecting hand-washing stations were set up, and the capacity of isolation areas was expanded. On the other hand, the organizers were not prepared for the “outbreak of panic” because of the new flu, and there were probably some festival-goers -- though not masses -- who did not come to Budapest because of the danger, he added.

Speaking about security at the venue for the festival on an island in the Danube, Gerendai said the most problems were with pick pockets, thefts from tents and drug dealing, but the number of crimes was very small compared to the number of festival-goers.

There were 1,200 security guards at the festival, along with about 150 police. (MTI – Econews)