Cambodian high school-age students took to the International Village stage at ClovisFest on Saturday to do the “Coconut Dance,” in which dancers paired off and clinked coconuts together while dressed in traditional Cambodian attire.
Coconuts are an important part of Cambodian culture, said Danny Kim, United Khmer Cultural Preservation vice president. The whole tree and fruit are used.
“We use the husks to make fire and cook rice. We use the palm leaves to make shelter (and) the palm tree itself we use to make a canoe, Kim said. “The coconut we use to make milk and cream.”
The dancers were introduced as “just getting off the plane” from Cambodia as part of the act, but the dancers are all from Fresno, some from high-crime neighborhoods, said Kim, a Fresno police detective.
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Kim said United Khmer not only preserves the Cambodian culture, but helps keep students from getting into trouble.
“We are keeping some of these kids off the streets and into this,” he said. The group is made of volunteers such as Kim and is free of charge. They meet weekly at the Holistic Cultural and Wellness Center in Fresno.
The group has traveled throughout California to perform, including at AsianFest in San Francisco. Kim said it’s important for people to see other cultures because fear of the unknown can lead to hate.
“They might say, ‘Why is that guy walking around with a coconut?’ That’s our culture,” he said. “We want people to understand where we come from.”
The International Village is new to ClovisFest this year. Nearly 40 performances were set to take place throughout the weekend, from Hmong, Danish and Aztec dancers to Japanese drumming.
Amy Gomez brought her granddaughter Chyanne, 11, to watch the Clovis Heiwa Taiko, which performed Japanese drumming. Gomez is friends with one of the drummers and said coming to ClovisFest every year is a tradition.
“(My favorite things are) the entertainment, the music and hanging out with the community.”
Another tradition kicked off the day when hot-air balloons were filled at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds. From there they floated over the city.
If you go
ClovisFest begins at 8 a.m. Sunday and wraps up at 4:30 p.m. in Old Town. Performers will take the stage all day at the International Village.