The ongoing pandemic has turned Washington’s annual Winternational event into an online, year-round phenomenon.
The festival, co-sponsored by The Washington Diplomat and other partners, is now a virtual marketplace celebrating the D.C.’s diverse diplomatic community and its artisan diaspora.
From Czech crystal bowls and Eritrean gold bracelets to Haitian coffee and Peruvian alpaca scarves, a world of choices awaits those hoping to buy something exotic and different this holiday season. Not surprisingly, masks are suddenly the hottest items among a selection normally dominated by handicrafts, jewelry, apparel and culinary fare.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented our communities with profound challenges, it also presented a unique opportunity to re-imagine our signature event and evolve our partnership with the world’s largest diplomatic community,” said Andrew Gelfuso, director of World Trade Center Washington DC (WTCDC).
This virtual marketplace will be open through December 2021. All next year, WTCDC will connect artisans from dozens of countries with the vast World Trade Centers Association network and additional strategic trade partners to open up new export opportunities.
Last year, more than 5,000 people attended Winternational — which celebrates international culture, travel, tourism and trade — at the Ronald Reagan Building.
“After what has been a daunting year for many small businesses, this bustline online global marketplace demonstrates our continued commitment to our diplomatic partners and to the prosperity of their artisan communities as they rebound from the economic impacts of the pandemic,” said John P. Drew, president and CEO of TCMA, which manages the building.
A proclamation signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser designated Dec. 7, 2020, as “Winternational Day” in recognition of the festival’s historic importance to the diplomatic community. Other officials offering messages of support include Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, and D.C. Secretary Kimberly Bassett.
So far, 35 nations have confirmed they’ll participate in the online version of Winternational: Bahamas, Barbados, Bulgaria, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Madagascar, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Besides the Diplomat, promotional partners include the American Association of Foreign Service Worldwide; Arab America Foundation; Azar Foundation for Children of the World; Cultural Tourism DC; Dialogue on Diversity; Sustained Dialogue Institute; Washington Intergovernmental Professional Group, Washington Performing Arts Society; Women’s Business Collaborative; World Trade Centers Association, and 80M Signs.