Kula, right, dances with the Turam Turkish group
at the 2012 Holiday Folk Fair International.
Credit: Submitted photo
the time of World War II, the Holiday Folk Fair
International has ushered in the holiday season for any
number of residents of the region.
staged on the weekend before Thanksgiving, this year’s
74th annual Folk Fair runs Friday through Sunday at the
State Fair Park Exposition Center, 8200 W. Greenfield
Ave., West Allis.
its theme of “Celebrate the Culture of Welcome,” the
2017 festival will again feature ethnic dancers and
musicians, foods emblematic of more than a score of
cultures, demonstrations by professional chefs, a Coffee
House and an International Bazaar. Some 60 “ethnic
communities” will be represented at Folk Fair,
according to Al Durtka, president of the three-day
event’s sponsoring organization - the International
Institute of Wisconsin.
will be able to polka in the Tanzhaus area so as to work
up an appetite for Bavarian bratwurst, Greek lemon rice
soup, Chinese chicken on a stick, assorted Italian and
German cookies and delicacies from about 15 other
places, including France, Egypt and - new this year -
Nepal. Between 2 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Sunday, cultural
exhibits will co-exist with sale booths.
“very formal” and “very impressive ceremony,” in
Durtka’s words, will effectually kick off the 74th
edition. A naturalization ritual, during which a judge
will administer the oath of citizenship to a group that
could exceed 200 individuals, is slated for 2:30 p.m.
Friday. Folk Fair’s original purpose, still operative
after seven decades, has been helping immigrants become
part of the community “and exposing the rest of the
community to who they are (with regard to) their
cultural background, beliefs and values,” Durtka
question about that,” the IIW’s president for the
past 33 years said to the suggestion that the Folk Fair
seems to be a festival for all age groups. Fairgoers
will experience “some new food, entertainment and
products,” he said. Nearly 48,000 attended last
year’s Folk Fair, said Durtka, and a similar turnout
is anticipated in 2017.
roper Javier Escamilla shares the stage with his
dancer wife, Angelica. The Mexico natives’
Waukesha/Milwaukee Ballet Folklorico Nacional
group will perform at this weekend’s Holiday
Folk Fair International.
Credit: Submitted photo
Angelica Escamilla, a naturalized citizen and co-founder
with husband Javier of the Ballet Folklorico Nacional
Aztec and Mexican dance group for youngsters and adults,
spoke to the significance of Folk Fair in her life.
“An amazing vehicle to open more doors for us,”
mused the native of Mexico. “The festival is a great
opportunity for people of all ethnic groups to get
together and share aspects of their culture.”
added that the event “definitely” promotes the
welcoming, fostering-of-inclusiveness implied in this
year’s aforementioned slogan. “Folk Fair is a great
way to bring people of all backgrounds and cultures
under one roof,” she explained. “It gives kids a
chance to learn about the amazing melting pot of
cultures, not only in Wisconsin but around the world.
The kids in our group are just mesmerized by all of the
different (groups’) dances.”
added that dancers “of all ethnicities are welcome in
our group; we have African-Americans, Cubans, Puerto
Ricans, etc. If you want to dance, we can teach you.”
Gokhan Kula of Brookfield, “Folk Fair is a chance to
show my heritage, which I’m very proud of, to others.
I really enjoy dancing in the Turam Turkish group.”
naturalized citizen, Kula came from Turkey with his
wife, Ayse, a doctor, to the United States in 2000 and
to the Milwaukee area four years later. Residing in
Chicago in his early American years and trained as an
engineer, Kula recalled, “I had positive experiences
in the workplace (yet) a few negative experiences with
people in shopping malls, etc. But that could happen
anywhere. Overall, people in the Midwest are pretty
Turks are generally identified with the Muslim faith,
Kula “was raised in a very secular family ... . I only
attended a mosque several times (for funerals and such).
Personally, I haven’t experienced any
(religion-related) problems in the U.S., but of course I
couldn’t say the same for others who are Muslim.”
have the Kulas transitioned to American culture while
retaining the heritage of their homeland?
eat a lot of Turkish food,” the Brookfield man said.
“A typical American diet contains a lot of meat and we
are used to lots of vegetables. Fried zucchini chips,
vegetable salad with tomato paste and olive oil, lentil
soups, beans and different puddings are favorite Turkish
meal staples. They are quick and easy to make.”