BLOG: Behind the scenes at the NWAW Gala

By Assunta Ng

From left: Hery Setiawan, Lydia Gao, Tiee Ray, Mavis Orr, and Roger Lu of Panda Express (Photo provided by Mavis Orr)

Dragon politics

Partisan politics kicked in at the Northwest Asian Weekly’s 30th anniversary gala at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel last Friday, Oct. 5.

Because it is the year of the dragon, we invited gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna, a Republican, and Jay Inslee, a Democrat, to lead a dragon dance into the ballroom, opening the event. Rob led the green dragon, while Jay led the red dragon.

Some team members’ initial excitement instantly turned into dissent. Rep. Maxine Maxwell, a Democrat who was assigned to McKenna’s dragon, quickly switched to Inslee’s dragon on her own accord. One guest was distressed to find out that she was part of McKenna’s dragon tail. Her discontent quickly spread to many loyal Democrats in the room.

Do we have to stay behind party lines even for fun activities? C’mon, this was Asian Weekly’s celebration. Couldn’t we just leave politics out for just one night?

100 on stage

One of our goals for the night was to engage our audience. This was the first time we brought over 100 people on stage, during the two-hour show of the Asian Weekly’s anniversary gala.

It was an ambitious agenda, featuring many talented groups and individuals. During the program, there were six roasters, 18 people from the Filipino choir performing the national anthem, over 30 honorary members and elected officials singing “Happy Birthday,” 15 judges and finalists for the fashion contest, 10 from Morning Star performing a Korean Fan dance, 22 in the dragon parade, 10 NWAW staff members, and other performers.

Amazingly, we ended the program at 9:10 p.m., only 10 minutes after our scheduled end time. We would like to thank our co-emcees Andrew Wappler, of Puget Sound Energy, and Molly Shen, of KOMO news, for keeping the acts running smoothly.

Fran and Peter Bigelow with daughter Andrina of Fran’s chocolate (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Showcasing the multi-ethnic

A great diversity was present at the Asian Weekly’s 30th anniversary gala. Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indians, Latinos, Blacks, and whites were featured in multiple performances and speaking roles. Such diversity has not been visible at an Asian celebration for quite some time.
The female roasters

Many supporters of the Northwest Asian Weekly requested to speak at our gala, but having too many speakers would have made the event boring. We ended up inviting only six roasters who I have known for a long time. The three female speakers, Jane Nishita, Dolores Sibonga, and Mimi G. Gates, had worked with me over the years in community projects. They are my role models, and I have learned many things from them. From Jane, I learned diplomacy; from Dolores, boldness and the importance of speaking your mind; and from Mimi, passion and fundraising finesse.

Full house?

“Will there be 1,000 people at the Northwest Asian Weekly’s 30th anniversary gala on Oct. 5, held at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel?” fans asked.

Our goal was for our audience to enjoy the program and for them to be able to network. We didn’t care so much about the numbers. Besides, there were four other community events going on the same night. We were lucky to have 650 people attending.

Combining the Seattle Chinese Post’s 30th anniversary dinner at the House of Hong on April 22 and last Friday, nearly 1,100 attended this year’s anniversary events. About 25 people attended both events.

Generous sponsors

When the number of guests exceeded our goal of 600, we planned to pay for additional Fran’s chocolate ourselves and begged for more panda bears from Panda Express.

The generosity of our sponsors astonished us. Fran’s owner gave us 50 more chocolate bars, free of charge. A Panda Express manager, Hery Setiawan, e-mailed 10 other restaurant outlets in the Puget Sound area to contribute more bears to our event within 24 hours.

The auction items, including Ben Bridge Jeweler and a Sounders package, came through four days before the event. A big thank you to our sponsors!

Goodie bag value

Every guest got an Asian Weekly goodie bag, including a Fran’s chocolate gold bar worth about $3, an Asian Weekly eco bag, a 45-cent U.S. stamp featuring Asian Weekly’s building, a panda bear plushy worth $4.99, and a coupon for Panda Express for those who are ordering catering service from the fast food restaurant chain. Catering service is a new service at Panda Express. (end)

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