The dueling Hmong New Year celebrations in Fresno are back.
After a one year absence, organizers of an event that started in 2010 have returned with an admission-free celebration at Calwa Park in southeast Fresno.
Meanwhile, the Hmong International New Year will continue at the Fresno Fairgrounds where it has been celebrated for more than a decade.
Both events start on Thursday and run through Jan. 1.
Organizers of the international event are dedicating this year's seven-day celebration to the late May Song Vang, wife of revered Hmong leader Gen. Vang Pao, who died in August after a long fight with cancer.
There will be a special dedication honoring Vang, who became the face of the Hmong community after her husband's death in 2011, during the opening ceremony at 11 a.m., said Charlie Vang, executive director. There is no parade this year.
Local dignitaries including Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer are expected to speak.
The fairground celebration attracts more than 100,000 people from around the world to celebrate a successful year of farming, to welcome the new year and to allow Hmong youth to make friends and meet potential spouses.
Part of this year's goal is to "try to encourage more youth to keep the culture," Vang said.
The event will have a beauty pageant competition, dance and singing contests and traditional ball tossing, but no sports tournament this year.
People who want to catch some flag football or volleyball will have to attend the Hmong New Year organized by the United Hmong Council just a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Calwa Park, on Church Avenue between Maple and Cedar avenues.
The extra year of planning allowed the council to relocate its celebration from the Fresno Regional Sports Complex in southwest Fresno, where it was held in 2010 and 2011, to the park, which is closer to town, organizers said. The time also gave clan leaders an opportunity to collect donations and raise money to fund this year's event, said Eugene Her, the council's secretary.
A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday with remarks from special guest, Minnesota state Sen. Foung Hawj, and other Hmong leaders.
"We're excited we can make this happen for the people," Her said. "For years many families have not been able to bring their children to the new year due to the costly admission and parking, so that's why we want to do it better this year and do it for free so we can show the culture of a 1,000-year tradition."
If you go:
Hmong International New Year
When: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday to Jan. 1
Where: Fresno Fairgrounds
Cost: $4 general admission; seniors, veterans and children younger than 4 are free.
Information: (559) 487-1012
Hmong New Year
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday to Jan. 1
Where: Calwa Park, Chestnut Avenue between Maple and Cedar avenues.
Cost: Free admission and parking
Information: (559) 251-0008
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, email@example.com or @bonhialee on Twitter.