This weekend, while the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation's Year of the Rabbit installations bring vibrant color to the greater Cleveland area and Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month continues, one of the city's newest – and most popular – events returns as the Cleveland Asian Festival takes shape in and around Asia Plaza on May 21 and May 22.
"Thanks to the success of OCA [Organization of Chinese Americans] Image TV that I started back in 2009, I was approached that year by Vi Huynh (who is the host of the tv show) to come up with something different and fun to do," says filmmaker, designer and festival co-founder Johnny Wu. "We thought of the Cleveland Asian Festival, and that's how it was started."
Wu and Hyunh began gauging the interest of friends, colleagues and family in July 2009, forming the first Cleveland Asian Festival committee in late January the following year. Soon, they were raising funds to make the festival a reality. The Cleveland Asian Festival was conceived as "a landmark undertaking to unite the community through recognition of its culture, diversity and people." The event was to celebrate the ethnic diversity of Northeast Ohio's vibrant Asian community, including Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese cultures. "Finally, on May 22, 2010, we managed to put it together, with over 10,000 in attendance of our first Cleveland Asian Festival."
The success of the first-year event inspired Wu, Hyunh and the rest of the committee members (including Michael Byun, Yin Tang, Lisa Wong and Hao Zhou) to expand its scope, adding a second day to the festival. The impressive number of attendees was welcome in 2010, though not entirely surprising, as the Asian community represents that second-fastest growing ethnic group in the region, according to the 2010 Census. "The event was popular for many reasons: It's the first Asian festival in Northeast Ohio; many love the AsiaTown neighborhood, but never knew much about it," says Wu. "It also brought the community together, plus we celebrated diversity and Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month."
For the second annual Cleveland Asian Festival, the festival's committee realized their goals through the united effort of myriad cross-cultural organizations, including the Asian Services in Action, Cleveland Contemporary Chinese Culture Association, Cleveland Chinese Women Association, Japanese Americans Citizens League, Korean American Association, MotivAsians for Cleveland, Organization of Chinese Americans of Greater Cleveland, and the St. Clair Superior Development Corp. The two-day event will highlight the rich heritage and bright future of the region's Asian communities with engaging programming that brings together arts and culture, health and education, food and drink, and more.