The Rapidian

Passion brings first Asian Festival to Grand Rapids on June 10

As the Grand Rapids Asian Festival nears, food, performances, vendors, and activities are being finalized by the event organizers.
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If you’re paying attention to the local scene, you’ve probably heard that Grand Rapids will host its first-ever Asian Festival, downtown in Rosa Parks Circle on June 10 from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. What you may not know is, behind the scenes, a group of eight passionate community members are working tirelessly to make it happen.

The committee, founded by Ace Marasigan, has spent the last eight months securing sponsorship, recruiting vendors and entertainers, and promoting the event through print and digital media. Creating an event of this size and scope is an ambitious endeavor on its own, but this group has the added challenge of representing as many Asian cultures as possible.

Why is this so important? As Ace told me, “One of the primary goals of the festival is to raise awareness in the community about the many different countries and cultures that make up Asia. The best way to do that is by gaining balanced and diverse participation—so that people can experience, understand, and celebrate Asian cultures with their own eyes, ears, and, yes, taste buds!”

With the Festival just a few weeks away, the day’s agenda is nearly finalized. Here is what attendees can expect:

Food and beverages
Visitors can sample specialties from Emonae Korean BBQ, Indian Masala, Sanse Filipino Cuisine, First Wok (Chinese), Angel’s Thai Café, Vietnamese United Methodist Church, Café Boba, and Waan Waan Sweets (located inside Bangkok Taste). A variety of dishes will be offered, including desserts and vegetarian options.

There will also be a beer tent serving both domestic and International beers, including Sapporo, Asahi, and Mai Tai cocktails.

Workshops, presentations, and interactive activities
Stacey Tamaki, a former ArtPrize artist, will teach origami. There will be a table in the Activities Area for all-day origami crane folding, and the festival team will be collecting 1000 cranes from participants to donate to the Children's Healing Center.

Kristian Kabuay, a Filipino calligraphy artist from San Francisco, will discuss his work with Baybayin—an ancient pre-Filipino script. He will also be available in the Activities Area after his initial presentation doing calligraphy, and will have a larger performance later in the day.

Visitors can also take part in 20-minute yoga session given by From the Heart Yoga Center, watch a fashion show featuring a variety of traditional Asian dress, and see a demonstration of Sin Republic’s Vortex hair sculpting technique.    

Entertainment and performances
Chinese Lion Dancers will kick off the Festival at noon, and be joined in the opening ceremony by Japanese Taiko drummers Michigan Hiryu Daiko. The drummers will perform two additional sets during the event.

There will also be a number of traditional dance performances featuring the cultures of Laos, the Pacific Islands (The Pacific Island Dancers, led by Minnie Morey), the Philippines, China, Bengal, India (including Bollywood dance), and Indonesia (demonstrating Bhineka Tunggal Ika dance). The modern hip-hop dance group 61SYX Teknique will also perform.

Musicians will play throughout the day and into the evening, including Vietnamese singers Luong Chi Cuong and Adrian Dang & Anh Trang, the Filipino band Revel Asians, DJ Ace, and DJ Jon Parra. A Karaoke contest featuring pre-selected members of the community begins at 5:00 p.m.

Also as part of the Grand Rapids Asian Festival there will be several Martial Arts performances featuring Sifu Lee's School of Tai Chi Jeung and Tai Chi Praying Mantis Kung Fu, Grand Rapids Aikikai - Kyoseikan Dojo, Japanese sword form by Katherine (Roo) Heins Sensei, Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do, and Good Institute of Tae Park Tae Kwon Do.

Finally, there will be several vendors at the Festival, including those providing henna art, selling traditional Japanese kimonos and Indian fashion, and displaying Indonesian artifacts—just to name a few. 

The organizers feel they have assembled an exciting and enlightening line-up that explores a wide variety of Asian cultures and traditions. Zyra Castillo, one of committee members, said, “We’re thrilled with the enthusiasm the community has shown for this event. Without their support and participation, the Festival would not be the success we expect it to be.”

For full details, visit the event page on Facebook, or the Grand Rapids Asian Festival website.

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