Festival Draws to a Close with Record-Breaking Crowds


Forty five thousand people from across the U.S. and around the world came together at the Third Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival, making this the most successful year to date for the growing festival. We couldn’t be more excited, as said Ibrahim Barlas, president of the Pacifica Institute. Hundreds of people worked very hard to bring a taste of Anatolia to California and this was our best year yet.  As most festival-goers were simply there to enjoy the regional foods and watch the colorful

performances, but many also came to have an enriching and even healing cultural experience.At any given time, the festival was host to people from the Philippines, Great Britain, Lebanon, Greece, Taiwan, Spain, Pakistan, Armenia, the United States and Turkey, I am very impressed with all the scenery and the motifs and the food was excellent, as said James (Hagop) Matossian of Orange County who explained that his parents were Armenians born in Turkey and that he was drawn to the festival because of his connection to Anatolia and this was the next best thing to actually traveling to Turkey.

Parents and teachers alike also took the opportunity to teach the younger generations about this important but distant land.

We studied this part of the world and I just wanted to make the history that they learnt come alive, as explained Linda Cho, a mother of three from Irvine who home-schools her children Matthew (11), Elise (8) and Sarah (6) as they enjoyed a stroll through the city exhibits. This is all very well done and I like how realistic everything is.

The festival was also a big draw to Turks living in California and other parts of the U.S. who attended for nostalgic reasons. Husne Sahin Yilmaz and her 82 year-old mother have been coming to the festival for three years and enjoy the connection with fellow Turks. She said:

We come because the festival promotes Turkey and we enjoy a chance to meet, talk and understand more.

For the many craftsmen, artist, performers and vendors who participated in making this one of the most colorful and lively events of its kind, the four days were a unique opportunity to showcase their products and their work. But it also gave them a chance to interact with visitors from the U.S. and many other parts of the world.

I’m here to show that we don’t just eat Doner kebabs and dance, said acclaimed ceramist Mehmet Gursoy. I want to explain Turkish culture; we are a knowledgeable, educated, modern society and we are an integral part of the world.

Abdulhamid Ozcan from the city of Mardin who learnt how to carve copper from his grandfather and teaches the ancient art at a professional college for women in his city also agreed.

I am here to represent Turkey and to show people these ancient crafts,as he added. He said that he is a perfect example of Turkey’s multicultural history and explained that copper carving was first developed in Anatolia by Armenians.

You simply have to come here and breathe in this atmosphere, as said Aysun Celenk, a representative from the Tourism and Culture Office in Hatay, one of the new cities participating at the festival this year. The message of peace and understanding here is what our city is all about.

Celenk explained that the Hatay is home to a historic synagogue that is still in use today and that it also has one of Turkey’s few existing Armenian villages where more than 35 families live and practice their religion.

Burdur, best known for its walnuts and walnut paste, also participated at the festival for the first time this year alongside the city of Isparta, home of the edible rose, which is used to make Turkish lokum, jam and cosmetics. They were showcased along with the cities of Istanbul, Antalya, Mardin, Konya and Van.

At an opening ceremony on Saturday, many V.I.P.s praised the festival and the Pacifica Institute.

I feel honored that the Turkish community in Los Angeles has the capacity to organize such a festival,as said Aydin Topcu, Consul General of Turkey.

Also present were US House of Representatives Loretta Sanchez and several other local and government officials. In their speeches they acknowledged the strategic importance of the region today and the festival’s role in helping to bridge cultural divides in California and around the world.

It is a pleasure to have all of you with us today, as said Sanchez, who will be part of a delegation visiting Turkey in October. And it is such a pleasure for you to share your culture with the rest of America… I love this community.

Sanchez and other V.I.P.s and festival-goers talked about their plans to visit Turkey and see the actual sites first hand.



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