Street Color: The Washington DC Turkish Festival

Late spring and early fall are when Washington is at its best, and street festivals certainly contribute to this. One of my favorite local traditions is coming up: the DC Turkish Festival, held every year in late September, an explosion of colors, tastes, and sounds.

A woman dances at the DC Turkish FestivalThe Festival is held across from Freedom Plaza, on Pennsylvania Avenue, between 12th and 14th Streets NW, only two blocks from the White House and the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. We arrived by the opening at 11 am and got great seats to watch the performances, my favorite part of festivities: folk music and dances from different parts of Turkey, performed by Turkish musicians and dance companies, as well as local studios. Costumes were intricate, smiles bright, and sounds exhilarating.

Women dancing with veils at the DC Turkish Festival

A couple dancing a folk dance at the DC Turkish Festival

Turkish folk dancer at DC Turkish Festival

Performances by children from a local dance club were very impressive, and it was wonderful to see the crowd support them as they initially stumbled and applaud them and their proud parents and teacher after they finished their complicated routine, firing up all of us.

These boys were extremely good!

Boy dancing Turkish folk dance at DC Turkish Festival As it is often the case, watching the spectators was almost as enjoyable as watching the performers.

Girls in Turkish folk costumes waiting for their turn on stage at the DC Turkish Festival

Girls from a local dance club waiting for their turn in the limelight (it was a cold, cold afternoon!)

One of the performers at the DC Turkish Festival Dancer waiting at the DC Turkish Festival

Folk dancers, practicing behind the stage, at the DC Turkish Festival

One of the most memorable dance groups of the day, practicing behind the stage

A couple watching the DC Turkish Festival

Chief Organizer of the DC Turkish Festival, dancing

The Festival’s chief organizer, dancing along

Last year, I spent most of the festival by the stage, but this year I will make sure to check out the bazaar, where you can buy jewelry, textiles, spices, and crafts; cultural tents, with demonstrations, photography exhibits, and book signings; and food court (I didn’t bring cash last year, and that proved difficult). I look forward to Turkish coffee and fortune telling in particular: as I was growing up, one of my aunts and I would regularly spend Saturday mornings grinding and brewing Turkish coffee (to do it just right, it takes a while and a lot of precision), and she would then read my fortune from tiny, delicate cups. It felt magical.

Beautifully decorated costume detail - DC Turkish FestivalLeading up to the festival, there will be several opportunities to learn more about Turkey and its culture. For me, the highlights always are the Turkish Restaurant Week (from the list of participating restaurants, Zaytinya is my perennial favorite) and the two-day film festival, with the featured director usually in attendance.

I do look forward to this fall!

Beautiful costume details - DC Turkish Festival

Other DC Area Festivals: 

9 thoughts on “Street Color: The Washington DC Turkish Festival

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