Southeast's 'New Year in the Park' continues to thrive
Since Saron Khut first put forward the idea, in 2015, of holding a festival honoring the New Year as celebrated by the Cambodian, Laotian, Thai, and Burmese cultures – this year, which occurred officially in mid-April – the resulting celebration has continued to flourish.
For 2018, the fourth annual "New Year in the Park" festival took place in Glenhaven Park on April 28 – once again, on the same day as the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade – in the Lents and Montavilla neighborhoods.
The many families who attended the festival enjoyed cultural music and dance performances under cover of a giant tent, as well as culturally-authentic food, traditional games, and vendors.
"We celebrate our New Year following the ancient Hindu calendar," explained Event Chair Vieng Bounnam. "I am first-generation from Laos, and here, we celebrate with our Laotian, Thai, Burmese, and Cambodian friends and families together, instead of holding separate celebrations!"
The scent of savory food wafted from the food vendors set up along the north area of the park. Even though the cooks worked continuously, sometimes at a furious pace, to produce fresh, hot dishes, still there were long lines of hungry festival-goers queued up for the culinary specialties.
"At this festival we introduce our customs to everyone; not only to our family and friends, but also with all of our neighbors, who we invite to come celebrate with us," Bounnam told THE BEE. "When people get to know more about each other and their traditions, it breaks down a lot of barriers and helps build a cohesiveness that we need within our city."
In addition to the $20,000 raised by the dozen core committee members to fund the festival, many volunteers pitched in to put it on. "Today, here at the park, more than 140 youths – from high school and college age – came out to help today," Bounnam remarked.