SE Asian ‘New Year in the Park’ flourishes

Here’s a look at how four SE Asian cultures come together in outer East Portland to ring in their traditional New Year …

Hundreds come to Glenhaven Park for the fifth annual “New Year in the Park” celebration.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Once again this year, for a while it appeared as if rain might wash out the fifth annual “New Year in the Park” at Glenhaven Park, on April – it’s a big community event that’s followed the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade each year.

The festival celebrates welcoming of the traditional New Year in Cambodian, Lao, Thai and Burmese peoples with cultural performances and music, food vendors, traditional games, and a lot of smiles from all the socializing attendees.

Bringing cultures together to celebrate is the goal of this festival, say co-organizers Coua Xiong and Stefan Saing.

“This event is important, because our communities have been kind of unnoticed within the larger Asian identity in Portland area,” remarked this year’s Co-Chair, Stefan Saing.

“Here, we highlight our cultures, within each of our communities, showing our different traditions and the rich and vibrant cultures that have come to Portland with us,” Saing told East Portland News.

After being introduced by Master of Ceremonies Kathy Wai, the “Rose City Girls” perform.

While it’s held in outer East Portland, the celebration draws from far beyond the greater metropolitan Portland area, co-organizer Coua Xiong pointed out. “We don’t know of any other celebration like this, anywhere – that brings the Cambodian, Thai, Lao, and Burmese peoples together to celebrate our traditional New Year – making this a really unique event.”

Saing observed that more than 40 vendors were there, many selling goods and representative items from the various cultures; delegates from as number of nonprofit organizations and government entities were on hand also.

Savory scents of cooking foods wafting across the festival, drawing hungry folks to “food vendor row” for a snack or a meal.

Cooking a batch of their most famous dish, “Phad Thai”, is Vicki Sakounchareun.

“But, what’s clear to see is how much people – of all nationalities – enjoy visiting our food vendors, who are presenting freshly cooked dishes,” Saing commented.

“The best thing that I see coming from this celebration,” Xiong said, “is that it bridges the gaps among our Southeast Asian cultures themselves, helping them find their own identities as being Southeast Asian. And also bridging the gap of what it means to be an Asian American.

The “Cultivating Hmong Team” pause for a photo, before their performance.

“And, our festival also helps all of our neighbors here learn more about our cultures, and what we bring to our city, bridging all identities,” Xiong concluded.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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