By Hailey Way
At the third annual Celebrate Little Saigon Festival on August 17, the sun shined, beer and Vietnamese coffee flowed, Vietnamese food was plentiful and the entertainment catered to people of all ages.
The event, put on by Friends of Little Saigon (FLS), highlighted and, as the name suggests, celebrated the relatively hidden gem that is Seattle’s Little Saigon neighborhood, part of the International District.
Many Seattleites don’t realize how far east the ID stretches. Most are familiar with the area of the ID enclosed by King Street Station and I-5, encompassing Uwajimaya, Hing Hay Park, and several restaurants. But head east on South Jackson or King Street, and you will find a remarkable cluster of Asian markets with unbeatable prices at the core of Little Saigon, the economic and social center for Seattle’s Vietnamese community since the 1980s.
Event Coordinator Quynh Pham organized the celebration as a way to gather the community and promote the unique neighborhood to the rest of Seattle.
“This is the third year for the Little Saigon celebration,” Pham said. “… We’re bringing the community and neighborhood together.”
The event program featured activities for all ages, including a beer garden for the adults, arts and crafts activities for the kids and cultural performances throughout the day for everybody. Balloon animals and a cream puff eating contest were a hit with the younger crowd, and in light of the recent Seattle Streetcar development, there was a booth detailing station locations and its anticipated completion in 2014.
The program opened with a traditional lion dance with three lions roaming through the crowd, eventually climbing onto the stage. The lions were adorned in the symbolic Vietnamese colors of blue, yellow, and red. Blue is the color for tranquility, yellow for prosperity, and red for passion.
After the lion dance, the program transitioned to a martial arts demonstration by the Vovinam Lion Dance Team, which was founded in Washington in 1994 and is currently led by Master Min Minh.
Restaurant and markets also took part in the festivities. Local restaurants Mill Creek Pho Mama’s and Huong Binh provided several packed-to-go lunch items as well as iced bubble tea and juice. Neighborhood markets Chu Minh Tofu deli and Lam’s Seafood provided more snack items to a continually growing crowd.
“Last year, we had around 250 people show up. We’re hoping every year it will grow a little bit more,” said Pham.
The hosts, Friends of Little Saigon, aim to preserve Vietnamese culture and innovate ways to maintain the social and economic growth neighborhood, especially in light of the recent development in Yesler Terrace.
James Hong, board member for FLS had a booth where attendees could vote with stickers for a neighborhood poll, according to their age demographic.
FLS hosts their celebration further east to give smaller hole in the walls more exposure. Most of Seattle is either clueless or thinks that these establishments are extra difficult to find. Celebrate Little Saigon and events like it promote those small businesses, Hong said.
“Each year, this event is getting bigger and having the public exposure in this location, of 12th and S. Jackson, brings more people to the area, separate from the International District,” said Hong. (end)
Hailey Way can be contacted at email@example.com.