Izmir’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 the Aegean city on August 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 Izmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoglu.
Izmir residents would nostalgically remember the cultural life around the fair, the 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 Izmir as the main vedette,” a native Izmir resident said, while admitting that the locals had a certain preference for Zeki Muren, a Turkish Liberace, Ajda Pekkan, who was one of the stars of the fair since the 1980s, and Sezen Aksu, who was originally from Izmir.
Many Izmir residents also remember the words of Burhan Ozfatura, Turkey’s centre-right mayor in the 1980s, who said the Izmir 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 Izmir,” 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 Izmir. The campaign runs parallel to Izmir’s own tourism promotion campaign titled “You Cannot Get Enough of Izmir.”
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 Izmir version of Studio 54 in the 1960s and 1970s, is also having a jazz revamp, with the Neset Ruacan Quartet and Sibel Kose. 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 Philharmonic Orchestra, which reinterprets Mozart with gypsy tunes.
Source: Daily Hurriyet