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Hmong New Year brings thousands to Cal Expo

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The smoky scent of fresh-cooked food and blaring sound of Hmong music filled the air at Cal Expo Thursday through Sunday for the annual Hmong New Year celebration.

Over the four-day period, more than 35,000 people swarmed the state fairgrounds to ring in the unofficial Hmong New Year, according to Sacramento Hmong New Year treasurer Mark Ching.

In addition to the rows of music, food and clothing vendors, some activities of the celebration included a dance competition, Miss Hmong beauty pageant and the Hmong Idol singing competition.

“This is part of my tradition, part of my culture, and also an identity of myself, so in a way it’s a part of me,” Hmong New Year enthusiast Ying Lo said.

He comes out every year for at least one day of the celebration to take part in the ceremonies, but his favorite part is the parade on opening day.

“During the parade, all the bad stuff and back luck that we had from the past year gets thrown away and we renew ourselves and embrace the upcoming year,” he said.

Krystilla Cha has come every year for the last 20 years and enjoys every year as much as the last.

She came out to see old friends, get some new movies, buy some new outfits, look around and see new Hmong jewelry to wear next year.

“You meet old relatives from your childhood and everyone comes together,” Cha said. “I have a lot of old relatives from places like Seattle, France, sometimes even South America…. A lot of people come to the Sacramento New Year because it’s a pretty big event, so you get people from everywhere.”

Shop-owner Mou proudly shared his tasty “cocktail fruit,” a tangy hybrid of the mandarin orange and pomelo, which seemed to be a popular buy.

Jeanne Lemkuil is very close friends with a Hmong family and comes with them to explore and buy Hmong handicrafts, fruit and other food.

She picked up three bags of the cocktail fruit, persimmons, green papaya salad, purple sticky rice and barbecued chicken, along with some gloves for her 9-year-old friend Sunshine Vang.

“My favorite part is coming here to buy stuff that I like,” Vang said. “Like gloves, fruit and vegetables and DVDs and movies for us to watch.”

And Sunshine wasn’t the only kid who came out for a good time. Hundreds of children, usually dressed in traditional Hmong clothes, accompanied their parents and grandparents to partake in this exquisite display of Hmong culture and welcome the year to come. 

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