Turkey’s oldest fair in İzmir gets a revamp

Turkey’s oldest fair in İzmir gets a revamp

Nazlan Ertan - İzmir
Turkey’s oldest fair in İzmir gets a revamp İzmir’s International Fair, the first trade and cultural fair in Turkey, celebrates its 85th anniversary with a revamped face as its opens its doors in Aegean city on Aug. 26.

The fair, founded in 1923, aimed to show the international world that the new republic wanted to be part of the Western economic system and an actor in the global economy. Since then, it has been a tool of diplomacy. “The fair brought together trade groups from the opposing parties of World War II in the 1940s, as well as Iraq and Iran when the two were at war in the 1980s,” said İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu. 

İzmir residents would nostalgically remember the cultural life around the fair, the gazinos (cabarets) where the best singers of Turkey would sing and dance. “You were not a star unless you were invited to sing at the cabarets during the International Fair of İzmir as the main vedette,” a native İzmir resident said, while admitting that the locals had a certain preference for Zeki Müren, a Turkish Liberace, Ajda Pekkan, who was one of the stars of the fair since the 1980s, and Sezen Aksu, who was originally from İzmir.

Many İzmir residents also remember the words of Burhan Özfatura, Turkey’s center-right mayor in the 1980s, who said the İzmir International Fair and the events it offered were not for “the riff-raffs.” “The fair is too expensive for the middle class, they should simply refrain from going there,” he said, creating shockwaves in the city that considered the fair an opportunity for all locals to rub elbows in the heart of the city.

But the 85th International Fair is not capitalizing on the glorious past, but the future. The fair, which launched a major campaign with its slogan “the Future is in İzmir,” said its main theme was innovation – in trade, technology and arts. It has also secured the sponsorship of Folkart Holding, which has been involved in major construction projects in İzmir. The campaign runs parallel to İzmir’s own tourism promotion campaign titled “You Cannot Get Enough of İzmir.”

The fair aims to combine trade shows, where the country of focus is Malaysia, with cultural events. A series of free, open air concerts are planned by local and international singers and groups, such as the Balkan Brass Band, Serta Earner and music group Doman.  Motorcycle and bike shows, yoga sessions and movie showings are also scheduled. Despite the emphasis on the future, some of the activities are a wink to the traditions of the fair. The Mogambo, an İzmir version of Studio 54 in the 1960s and 1970s, is also having a jazz revamp, with the Neşet Ruacan Quartet and Sibel Köse. The fair’s regular heartthrob for four decades, Ajda Pekkan, will give a concert and “Butterflies are Free” – a play that had wide success in the 1980s – will also be shown.  Kibariye, a rags-to-riches singer and a regular of the fair, will also make an appearance, with the city’s Roman Tepecik Philarmonic Orchestra, which reinterprets Mozart with gypsy tunes.