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
Francisco, CA 94102
For an additional info go to www.laonewyear.com
Listen to audio files for more details.