Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Annual Turkish Festival Presents Array of Culture, Attracts Thousands to DC

Annual Turkish Festival Presents Array of Culture, Attracts Thousands to DC

The 21st annual Turkish Festival, which took place in downtown D.C. on Oct. 15, featured a celebration of cultural performances, cuisines and art that attracted thousands of visitors — Turkish and non-Turkish alike. 

The day-long event, hosted in D.C. each fall, typically hosts more than 20,000 attendees each year and aims to contribute to the District’s ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. The free festival, which boasted diverse events including a live concert, fortune-telling and kids games, is popular among locals interested in a new cultural experience.  

The American Turkish Association of Washington, DC (ATA-DC), a nonprofit organization established in 1965 that seeks to give Turkish Americans a place to showcase their heritage, organizes the event. 

The vendor stalls, arranged as a traditional marketplace called a bazaar, spotlighted authentic Turkish cuisines, such as sucuk, Turkish sausage, as well as traditional practices such as tasseography, a popular method of coffee fortune reading. The festival also displayed diverse performances of folk songs and dances such as the Kazakh and Halay. 

The president of the ATA-DC Sevtap Schreffler said that this year’s festival was especially significant given that the year 2023 marks the 100th year since Turkey’s independence after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. 

“This year for the Turkish community is very, very important. It is the centennial of the foundation of the Turkish Republic,” Schreffler told The Hoya. “It meant a lot to celebrate in the streets of Washington the centennial of the Republic.” 

Courtesy of Alara Karahan | Visitors enjoyed cultural performances and traditional dishes at the 21st annual Turkish Festival on Oct. 15

Schreffler said that the event helps to bring a piece of familiarity to Turkish immigrants living in the United States.   

“It’s kind of hard living here, even though it’s beautiful, and it is our country now. But you also have your country in heart,” Schreffler said. “And in a year like this, sometimes you wish you were there because of these big celebrations going on. And they basically enjoyed a little piece of that.”

Co-presidents of Georgetown’s Turkish Students Association (GTSA) Doğa İpek Bozkurt (CAS ’26) and Eda Toprak (CAS ’26) attended the festival. Bozkurt said that the event was comforting but also eye-opening to her even as a Turkish student.

“It was a very multicultural experience that you could find a lot of different cultures, cultural objects, or food and desserts. It was a very enriching experience,” Bozkurt told The Hoya. 

Bozkurt said that the event was attended by people of diverse cultures, and that this wide outreach has encouraged her and other Turkish immigrants to share aspects of their culture.

“There were also just people who just appeared to be walking by seeing the events and joining  and getting food,” Bozkurt said. “We love our culture, we love our music, we love our food, and we even want to share that with as many people as possible. So it was a very inclusive environment.”

Bozkurt added that while the event showcased Turkish culture, it also served to unify Turkish Americans. 

“Definitely there was a very big presence of Turkish Americans,” Bozkurt said. “So this annual festival is an excellent way for them to feel the sense of community on an annual basis, when normally they don’t encounter Turkish culture regularly.” 

Toprak said that this year’s festival was especially powerful and important to the community in the wake of the February 2023 earthquake in Turkey and Syria that devastated the region and killed tens of thousands. 

“It was hard to be that far from our country when the earthquakes happened,” Toprak told The Hoya. “And then it was really helpful to see that sense of community and to feel that sense of community here.” 

“It is refreshing that sense of community and it’s reminding us of our country even if we are thousands of kilometers away,” Toprak added. 

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