A taste of Turkey

Consider Sunday the last opportunity for awhile to watch a Turkish folk dance, try a manti (Turkish dumpling) or take a picture with a soldier guarding a replica of the Trojan Horse.

Turkey came to the Orange County Fairgrounds this weekend for the fourth Anatolian Cultures & Food Festival. However, event organizers said the festival will head to New York next year before returning to Orange County in 2015.

"[New York dignitaries] showed an interest in the festival," said Atilla Kahveci, the event's spokesman. "They said after seeing this, why doesn't it move to [New York?] We're negotiating with them, figuring out logistics and doing planning."

Before heading East, almost 100 vendors are serving desserts, flatbread and grilled meat at the O.C. Fairgrounds.

Dondurma (Turkish sticky ice cream) is a must, Kahveci said.

Making her third festival visit, Laguna Woods resident Maxine Quitiquit said she's reminded of a 2009 trip to Turkey.

"[The festival] has improved considerably," she said. "The historical walkway is fabulous. It's a whole history lesson walking down that lane."

"When I come here, it's like going [to Turkey]," Quitiquit added.

The event drew several government dignitaries, including Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), Turkish Parliament members and Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer.

"These people can change the world," Righeimer said of his public service brethren gathered on stage. "One thing I can do: By the power vested in me, I present May 18 as official Anatolian Day. Thank you for being here."

Off stage, Righeimer said he hopes events like this reveal Costa Mesa's character.

"We welcome all nationalities to our city," he said. "It's great to have these events in Costa Mesa because it shows hospitality to all different groups that they are welcome here."

Sultan Kosen, 31, the Guinness World Record holder for the world's tallest living man, felt especially welcome.

"The people of Costa Mesa are so kind," Kosen, who stands 8 feet 3, said through interpreter Yusuf Ozokutan.

Kosen — from Mardin, a city in southeastern Turkey — is making his second trip to California and his first to Costa Mesa.

"The roads are huge and I like all the trees," Kosen said of Costa Mesa.

Kosen hopes to teach people about Turkish culture at the festival, but also used the trip for medical reasons. He had a brain tumor when he was 10 and doctors have operated on him three times, Ozokutan said.

A University of Virginia doctor initiated treatment that stopped Kosen's growth, but the tumor is not 100% gone. Doctors said the tumor could have caused pressure which generated hormones that caused Kosen's growth, Ozokutan said.

Kosen had three MRI tests at USC last week, but was all smiles as festival goers waited to have their picture taken with him.

"[His height] is a gift," Ozokutan said. "He would like to use it as a chance to make people happy."

The festival is an educational lesson as much as a giant food court, with descriptions of historical civilizations such as the Ottoman and Persian empires written on walkway walls.

Three-dimensional replicas of cities such as Istanbul, Konya, Mardin and Gaziantep were made by taking photos of the real structures and placing the images on vinyl, said Tezcan Inanlar, chief executive of event organizer Pacifica Institute.

"It's Turkey without the jet lag," Kahveci told the crowd gathered to hear Rohrabacher, Sanchez and others speak.

The festival is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $12, $6 for children .

For more information, visit http://www.anatolianfestival.org.

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