Annual event returns to Mill

The Erie Asian Pacific American Association (Erie APAA) is collaborating once again with Gannon University to host the fourth Asian Festival from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, in the Hammermill Center .

Formed in 2005 by the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, Erie APAA’s mission is to provide opportunities for Asian Pacific Americans and their families in the Greater Erie area to network and share experiences, and to promote awareness of the diverse Asian Pacific cultures through community activities and outreach.

The association has 30 paid members but also have many members of other organizations, including the Chinese Association and the India Association that participate in its events.

Although the association does not hold regular meetings, the group still comes together and participate in many activities, including the biannual Asian festival, the annual Multicultural Day at Experience Children’s Museum, the annual picnic and community service. Recent community service has included painting the clinic at the Multicultural Resource Center and helping at the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Erie APAA hopes that the festival will promote greater understanding and appreciation of the cultural diversity of Asia in the Erie community. The festival will showcase the cultures of various Asian countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Colors of Love.” Each year, the festival is centered around a theme of togetherness. Each country will have its own booth with highlighted traditions and customs, such as love, marriage, family, friendship and commitment.

A committee of about 25 people has been planning the festival and the association is expecting about 2,000 attendees and 100 volunteers to help with the various activities, according to Roanna Lun, project manager of Gannon’s Computer and Information Computer and Information Science program and a member of the festival planning committee.

Many Gannon faculty, including Renee Lui and Sr. Min Shik Kim, will be volunteering to help set up along with Gannon students. In 2009, more than 50 Gannon students volunteered.

Along with the booths, there will be cultural performances, ethnic art demonstrations, hands-on activities and ethnic food.

The cultural performances will be presented by local ethnic associations as well as semi-professional groups, including an Indian dance team, PantheRaas from the University of Pittsburgh and a Chinese dance group from the Great Wall Enrichment Center in Solon, Ohio.

Traditional music, vocals, dances and an ethnic costume fashion show are just some of the cultural events to experience.

There will be various interactive activities, including Origami, Henna, Chinese knotting, Indian Rakhi-making and Philippine bamboo dancing.

For all the food lovers out there, ethnic food from some of the participating countries will be catered from local venders.

The entire event is free of charge and open to the public, but food items may be purchased for a small fee.

Meera Kumar, president of Erie APAA and co-chair of the festival planning committee, said the festival’s goal is to bring awareness and promote understanding of the rich and varied Asian culture in the Erie community.

It benefits not only the people who attend the festival but the members of Erie APAA as well.

“The benefit of being aware of Asian cultures is not just educational but also to have respect and understanding of each other,” Kumar said. “With Asia being such a vast continent, the festival also helps members understand each other’s cultures and respect the similarities and differences among us.

“Working together for a common goal brings people together and forms lasting friendships.”

The hope for the festival is that people understand and learn about cultures and countries from another region to avoid any misunderstandings because every culture matters, according to Lun.

“People and their cultures are beautiful,” Lun said.

 

SAMMIE JANIK

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