A Weekend of Culture: The Cleveland Asian Festival
The Cleveland Asian Festival was filled with laughter, entertainment, and experiencing different cultures. My impression of the Asian Festival was, “Dang, there must be at least thousands of people here.” Seeing so many people coming together to celebrate different cultures is really cool. I had never observed how crowded the festival was until now. I’ve been going to the festival for many years with my family and I don’t think it has changed that much, not from what I can remember. Even now, I love being here to experience different cultures, their food and entertainment. I come from a Vietnamese-Chinese family and I love going to the Asian Festival to not only learn more about my culture but to learn about other cultures as well, so it is entertaining and educational. My parents came to the United States in the 1990’s from Vietnam and they enjoy it here, but their families are halfway around the world so they go to Chinatown to make it seem like home again. My parents moved to the states for better jobs and a better future. The Asian Festival makes my parents feel at home because of the food, dancing, clothing, and seeing familiar faces from the Chinese market or temples. It provides them a comforting vibe.
When I went to the festival, there were so many people celebrating different cultures and learning more about each other. Some cultures that were there included Indian, indigenous groups from Central America, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. This festival primarily focuses on Eastern Asia. It is volunteer-based so it’s nice to see that people are willing to spend their time to help make it a success. On Sunday, May 22nd, the weather was humid and bright. The weather affects the festival because if it’s sunny and beautiful outside, people might enjoy it more than if it was raining and stormy. It would be unfortunate if the weather wasn’t great, especially since the festival is outdoors.
There were many different types of clothing that I saw, like a few people wearing traditional dresses from certain cultures. I saw one woman wearing a pink kimono, which is an traditional Japanese dress, and playing a shamisen, which is a Japanese instrument that has 3 strings and a square body. It can be played by a pick or a bow. When I heard the women playing a shamisen, I stood in front of her for 10 minutes to see her play. She moved her hand with such grace and played the instrument melodiously. Another women that I walked past was wearing a traditional white Vietnamese dress with blue flowers. Normally, you don’t see anyone wearing a traditional dress from Japan or Vietnam unless you are in those countries or there is a festival going on. It is fun to see their cultures’ clothing because it’s more than a piece of clothing, it is their representation of their culture.
I went to the food court because a girl has got to eat! In the middle of the food court, there was a tent with at least 10 long tables. There were so many people standing in line for each food stand that it took me back to kindergarten where people would play follow the leader. The lines were crazy long but it was worth it. I love seeing various foods from different cultures because I had many options to choose from! That way, I could get a feel for what kinds of food were from certain cultures. The stands included Indian Delight Restaurant -which sold appetizers such as a samosa, a triangle-shaped, savory delicacy that is filled with spiced potatoes and peas- and Koko Bakery, which sold pastries such as pork buns and BBQ buns. Li Wah, a restaurant in the plaza that held the Festival, provided meals such as BBQ pork, egg roll and spring rolls, and One Stop Drink Shop sold sugarcane.
Whenever I visited Vietnam, I would always drink sugarcane. I usually ordered the medium size without ice. The taste of the sugarcane sold at One Stop Drink Shop wasn’t as sweet as in Vietnam. There are not many places that provide sugarcane except for Chinatown that I am aware of so I stood in line with my relatives for One Stop Drink Shop for what seemed like 20 minutes! The wait was so long that I wanted to get out of line to buy something else but I decided to wait. After waiting, I finally got my sugarcane drink and it tasted like a grassy sugary drink. Trust me when I say it tastes better than what I just described. When I drank it, it reminded me of Vietnam. When I was waiting for my drink, I noticed that the sign said this particular shop was from Florida. One Stop Drink Shop came all the way from Florida just to be in the Asian Festival was pretty impressive because they came a long way to not only provide a good beverage but to promote their business. Having a shop that came from Florida to Ohio shows that they wanted to help celebrate different cultures as well. No matter where I stood in the food court, I could always smell barbecue and other grilled meals; it smelled sweet yet I could smell burning charcoal.
There were so many stands that promoted their businesses. There were stands for organic food, handmade skin care, honey, ice cream shops and insurance businesses. It looked like many people were taking their business cards and buying products to support them. The businesses also spread information to customers so they could talk about it with their loved ones.
Also, there were various entertainments to watch. A few of the performances included Westlake Chinese Culture Association, who performed Tai Chi, Martial Arts and Chinese Dancers, and a KPop (Korean Pop music) tribute dance performed by Yin Tang Dance Company. I thought that it was really great that young kids were rehearsing for this event to showcase their culture as well as their talents because it teaches kids about their cultural roots. Teaching young minds about their roots is important because it’s not enough for anyone to just read about the culture. Experiencing it first-hand can make people at any age remember more about what is going on in their surroundings.
Overall, I think this festival did really well to educate the public about the different cultures that were there but providing tasty meals, beverages and great entertainment. I recommend everyone to come to the Cleveland Asian Festival next year.
For more information about the festival go to www.clevelandasianfestival.org.
Check back to thevindi.com all summer long for more Cleveland summer arts and culture coverage!