Food. Music. Dance. Sports. Culture. Thousands of people from around the nation turned out for opening-day celebrations of Hmong New Year in southeast Fresno on Saturday.
Many dressed in traditional Hmong garb that represents their specific village for weeklong events at the Fresno fairgrounds and Calwa Park.
The fairgrounds event was kicked off by a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Hmong dignitaries and Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer, who wished the Hmong people “peace, prosperity and unity.”
There are some 500 booths for food, clothing, music, artwork and more at the fairgrounds.
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Choua Yang attends the Hmong New Year celebrations every year. The culture – and food – keep her coming back.
“I love the culture and I just like to see how New Year’s changes. Every year they have new stuff,” Yang said.
The fairgrounds event features Hmongstory 40, an exhibit that displays the history of the Hmong people. Artwork, literature, photographs and fashion were showcased. The exhibit also has the Wall of Unknown Soldiers – a photo wall of soldiers with the intent that someone in their family lineage will recognize and claim them.
I love the culture and I just like to see how New Year’s changes. Every year they have new stuff.
Hundreds of young people lined up at the center of the event tossing balls back and forth in a traditional courting activity called pov pob. Generally, boys and girls from different clans toss the ball to the person standing directly across from them.
Organizers said that usually about 30,000 people attend the fairgrounds event, but because it’s the 40th anniversary, they’re expecting that number to reach 50,000.
While thousands filled the fairgrounds to take part in the celebration, less than two miles away, another thousand filled Calwa Park for their own celebration.
Two years ago, the smaller group took up camp at Calwa Park because the open-field celebration is more traditional.
“This is traditionally celebrated once a year and has been going on for centuries,” said Jupah Moua, director of public relations for the Calwa Park event. “From China, to Laos, to Thailand and now to America.”
Moua said that the people attending the two events come for different reasons and aren’t just from Fresno.
“The event is special because of the culture, the dress, the food – it’s time to meet friends from all over the country,” Moua said.
The Hmong New Year celebrations are generational and there are people from newborn to the elderly and everyone in between at both events.
“It’s the same group – the same Hmong people, but each group has their own different vision,” Moua said about why there are two different celebrations.
Every day, you eat pizza or something, but here you get to enjoy something from your culture and there’s a lot of cool people.
The food was a big draw for many people.
“Every day you eat pizza or something, but here you get to enjoy something from your culture and there’s a lot of cool people,” said Darrell Her, who attended the Calwa Park festivities.
Another thing that drew Her to the event at Calwa is the sports. People could choose from various games including volleyball, basketball and soccer.
Fresno has the second-largest Hmong population in the country, with more than 30,000 people. The largest communities of Hmong are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area of Minnesota.
If you go
Fresno Hmong International New Year
- Where: Fresno Fairgrounds, 1121 S. Chance Ave.
- When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Dec. 26-Jan. 1
- Admission: $4 general entry; free for children under 6, seniors, people using wheelchairs, military and government
- Details: www.hinyf.org
Hmong New Year Celebration
- Where: Calwa Park, 4545 E Church Ave.
- When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Dec. 26-Jan. 1
- Admission: Free