Asian Festival returns to OKC 

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To outsiders, Oklahoma is a state of cowboys and wildcatters, but to residents familiar with its history, the Sooner State is home to immigrants and refugees from around the world.

This year marks Asia Society of Oklahoma’s 30th annual Asian Festival.

The free festival is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at Langston University’s Oklahoma City campus, 4205 N. Lincoln Blvd.

Iran is this year’s host country, and Aalim Bellydance Academy will highlight Iranian dance performance and culture.

While members are always welcome, said Asia Society vice president Ira Burrough, the goal of the festival is to bring people from outside the society to talk and take part in the variety of cultures.

Food has long been the easiest point of entry for Oklahomans interested in Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese cultures, which might be why Thai House, 500 NW 23rd St., was invited to provide food at the festival. But there’s more to the myriad Asian communities than cuisine.

The festivities also include art exhibitions, crafts and activities as well as vendors Asia’s In Fashion, LipSense by JenSense, Melwani & Laura Kwan Souvenirs and OK! International, among others.

Alongside song and dance from group members are pageants naming Miss Asia, Junior Miss Asia and Little Miss Asia. Contestants come from across the state to compete for the honors and will represent the Asia Society in community events in the coming year. A scholarship is awarded during the Awards for Excellence Banquet.

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Asia Society is an umbrella organization that brings together Chinese Association of Greater Oklahoma City, India Association of Oklahoma, Indonesian American Association of Oklahoma, United Iranian-American Cultural Society of Oklahoma, Korean Society of Oklahoma, Lao Natasinh Association, Philippine-American Civic Organization of Oklahoma, Taiwanese Association of Oklahoma, Vietnamese-American Community of Oklahoma City and Metro Areas and Asian Professionals of Oklahoma.

Each organization underneath the Asia Society banner will have booths at the event, giving visitors a face-to-face contact to learn about the customs, traditions and identities of the different countries.

Turnout has been light in past years, said Asia Society vice president Ira Burrough, as Mother’s Day, tornadoes and graduation all compete with the festivities.

“Sometimes we get 200 or 300 people,” she said.

For Burrough, the festival is about forming connections. Members connect with others who share their heritage and with people from their adopted homeland. Through music, dance, art and food, we can better understand our differences and learn all the ways in which we are very much alike.

New Year

After taking part in the Asian Festival, Lao Natasinh Association of Oklahoma City readies another annual celebration with the Pi Mai Lao, or Lao New Year, 9 a.m.-midnight May 21 and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. May 22 at Wat Lao Buddharam, 7600 N. Kelley Ave.

Admission is free and open to the public and is a day to give and receive blessings from relatives, friends and strangers.

Guests should prepare to get wet — water plays a big role as people “wash away” the sins of the past year with lots of splashing and water fights, organizers said.

Print headline: Eastern exposure, Asia Society of Oklahoma’s Asian Festival seeks to teach and share diverse cultures in the state.

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