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Lao-Americans to Hold the First Ever International Lao New Year Festival


Three national organizations - the Laotian American National Alliance(LANA), the Center for Lao Studies(CLS), and the Lao Heritage Foundation(LHF) – are taking a leading role in organizing the first ever International Lao New Year Festival(ILNYF) on April 10-12 in San Francisco. Sourichanh Chanthyasack, president of LANA and also Festival Chair/Spokeperson/Media Contact told VOA in a recent interview, “We want to showcase Laos’ culture, traditions and harmonious heritage to the world. Our three national organizations take a leading role in this International Lao New Year because we all have a role in the Lao-American community in both local and national levels. We are good fit and have the same vision of bringing out the Lao community and put Laos on the map. We are very excited to be able to foster pride in our youth and elders to partake in this significant step for Lao-Americans and Lao people across the globe.”

There are close to one million people of Lao descent now living in the United States, and about 35,000 of them reside in the San Francisco Bay area and that’s why San Francisco was chosen as the venue for the first international Lao New Year Festival.

Another ILNYF Co-Chair/Lao Media Contact, Dr. Vinya Sysamouth, Executive Director of the Center for Lao Studies, shares Sourichanh’s point of view: “Most of the Lao diaspora came to the United States of America over 30 years ago. and some had developed and cultivated themselves into the American Society and living the American dream; some assimilated well and some are isolated due to the nature of the Lao people who “prefer not to be bothered.” In general, in the mainstream of the American society, Americans know very little about Lao community. This is one of the main reasons why we want to celebrate the Lao new year at this level, to open up to the public, to tell them who we are. We, Lao-Americans, are a large community and we play an important role in the American society. This is not only to showcase our beautiful traditions and culture, but also our proud heritage, really to reveal our identity. For the past thirty some years, Lao communities across the nation have celebrated Lao New Year in their own way in their community, in a temple etc…, but never at this grand”

Chittaphone Outtama Khampradith, a representative of the Lao Heritage Foundation, also shares responsibility as a co-chair of the event. She will be in charge of the planning committee, arranging and putting the activities together. "This International Lao New Year Festival is not only bringing Lao people, but also bringing international communities to celebrate with us, learning and participating in our culture and traditions. There will be plenty of activities where children can participate: kite making and flying, green papaya salad competition, and other activities," adds Chittaphone.

The International Lao New Year will be a three-day event, starting from the 10th of April to the 12th. The main event will start out with religious rituals, giving alms to monks and so on, followed by the traditional Lao blessing (Baci) ceremony. An inter-active, a life size of water buffalo herd, designed by a local Lao-American artist, will be displayed as a centerpiece where everyone can write on to express his comments.

The Kinnaly Dance Troup of the Lao Heritage Foundation will perform their unique dances. Which will be joined by Eumien and Kmu performances. There will be Lao local bands to entertain the audiences. As for singers and entertainers, besides the home grown US singers, there will be popular singers from the Lao PDR and England.

Another excitement that adds to the event is a screening of the Oscar nominated documentary film “Nerakhoon or The Betrayal,” along with a Kato Lao (Sepak Takraw) competition. The US Sepak Takraw (Kato Lao) team will demonstrate some advantage kicks as well as the basic fundamental of how to play Kato Lao.

Organizers of the first international Lao New Year summed it up this way: “This is an ideal event for families, children and friends to get together to enjoy and celebrate the beautiful traditions and yet maintain, cherish and endure the rich Lao culture…to be proud of Lao heritage.”

The International Lao New Year will be held at the San Francisco City Hall’s Civic Center, 1 Carlton B Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102

For an additional info go to www.laonewyear.com

Listen to audio files for more details.

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