A four-day Turkish festival, the Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival 2011, organized by the Pacifica Institute, opened its doors to visitors in southern California on Thursday and continued attracting masses at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa on its last day (Sunday) this year, as was the case when the event was organized for the first time in 2009.
As the third day of the festival was on a weekend, it attracted more visitors than expected. Visitors had the opportunity to taste the famous breakfast of the southeastern province of Van, see the Mehter Takımı [a parade of the Ottoman military marching band] marching at the festival and attend a concert by Turkish pop singer Rafet El Roman.
Mayors and governors from Turkey and members of the US congress gave speeches in a ceremony held on the third day of the festival.
Van Governor Münir Karaloğlu congratulated the organizers of the festival for organizing a festival that successfully presented Anatolian culture. “Van is a city of civilizations and tolerance with its 7,000-year history. We want to present the values of Van to our American friends,” he said.
Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, said: “Merhaba, [“Hello”] Today I want to thank the Pacifica Institute and those who helped put this program together to create better relations between the two nations. Thank you for doing your part. Let’s reach out and be friends. God bless you.”
US House of Representative member Loretta Sanchez said: “It is a pleasure to have all of you with us today. And it is such a pleasure for you to share your culture with the rest of America. We are working very hard to make it easier for Americans to visit Turkey and, of course, for your families to come and visit you here. … I love this community. I love your food. I can’t wait to go over to the ice cream man. In about a week’s time I will be going with the Pacifica Institute to Turkey. I’m taking a small delegation mostly of women leaders. I look forward to seeing the real cities of Turkey. I have been there before, but this time will be very very special.”
California State Senator Ted Liu stated that he is happy to have gone to Turkey with the trip that the Pacifica Institute organized. “I’m deeply honored to have gone to Turkey last month. I have to tell you that I’ve learned more about Islam in two weeks than I did in 42 years. What I saw was no clash of civilizations, in fact I saw a great many similarities with the West. All of you know that, but we need more Americans to know that,” said Liu.
There was a moment of silence and contemplation for everyone at the OC Fairgrounds each time the call to prayer was sung. As Muslims rushed to observe their prayers together after the calls, music and dance resumed so others could continue having Turkish fun in this small Turkey on the western coast of the United States more than 6,000 kilometers away from the real one.