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A taste of Asia in downtown and Old Sac

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The streets of downtown and Old Sacramento were filled to the brim for the 19th Annual Pacific Rim Street Fest Sunday. According to Event chair Merlayna Yee-Chin, thanks to the beautiful weather, she was expecting to reach participant numbers of at least 40,000.

Busy streets in Old Sacramento.
Yee-Chin has been involved with the event since the very beginning, which started 19 years ago as Frank Fat’s dream for people in the community to understand the large and growing Asian population in Sacramento.

“When we first started, people didn’t know or even really understand what it was, but that has changed over time,” Yee-Chin said. “This is an event that now takes about nine to 10 months to plan.”

This year’s spice-themed event boasted four entertainment stages throughout downtown, each providing audiences with at least six performances throughout the day. Yee-Chin said there was plenty to see and do during the festival, with 17 food vendors, 17 community and health organizations and 23 arts and crafts vendors, all in addition to a number of sponsor booths.

Attendees came out for reasons as diverse as the people present. But whether it was to learn more about the community or simply because it was nice out, people came in droves to take advantage of what the festival had to offer.

Roseville resident Rowena Asuncion had been at the event for a couple hours with friends and family during which they were able to enjoy the Polynesian dancers at the downtown stage.

Polynesian dancers at the Downtown Plaza stage.
Asuncion said, “It’s really all about the kids today though. While we’re Filipino, I really want to educate them about the various cultures out there. I’ve been to a lot of other festivals, but I like this one best so far. It’s the most diverse I’ve seen.”

Asuncion said she felt that the festival really illustrates how culturally diverse Sacramento actually is.

“We’ve been involved almost every year with the festival and think it’s a great opportunity to share our culture with the rest of the community,” said Dexter Labonog, head instructor of the Bahala Na Multi-Style Filipino martial arts group. “I think that’s what this festival is really about, sharing and educating the community, especially the children. A large part of our group is made up of the youth community. We find the best way to keep tradition and culture alive is by propagating it through them.”

Event volunteer Nick Mamola said the event is great for Sacramento, allowing people to experience the various cultures and providing great business for downtown and Old Sacramento.

“This is my second year volunteering, and I’ve always noticed that during the festival there are always so many more businesses open than normal.”

Kevin P. Nguyen, vice president of the Greater Sacramento Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce, noted that the structure of the festival is exactly what they hope to pull together for the local Vietnamese community.

“The festival is a cultural event about the Asian community, but it’s not just the Asian community out here today,” he said. “It’s a melting pot of cultures. While the festival is set up to educate the community about its diversity, it is also helping out the economy by bridging the culture gap and providing business for the various vendors out there.”

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