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Friday, July 19, 2013

Hmong Freedom Celebration—Food, Flag Football, Fun


Submitted by Councilmember Amy Brendmoen
Many vibrant community festivals celebrate our city’s rich ethnic heritage – St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, for example. My ward includes several neighborhoods where European immigrants gave way to Hmong and Karen refugees, and two weekends ago I had the opportunity to celebrate these more recent cultural additions at the Hmong Freedom Celebration.
The festival takes place at Como Park, just across Lexington Avenue from my ward -- it’s the largest Hmong cultural event in the United States, perhaps even the world, and it’s a five-minute walk from my front door. Tens of thousands of people travel from all over the country to visit family, celebrate Independence Day and compete at soccer, flag football, volleyball, and kato, among other sports. You can chow down on traditional Hmong food, visit the many Hmong (or non-Hmong) vendors, or watch performances and sports matches running constantly throughout the weekend.
Photo Credit: Lee Pao Xiong, Director of Center for Hmong
Studies, Concordia University
This year I took part in a new festival experience that I hope will become a permanent fixture: a tour for Como Park neighbors. Every Fourth of July weekend the festival takes over the neighborhood, but my neighbors have not tended to visit despite the proximity. This year, festival organizers sought to close that gap by offering neighbors a guided tour. The experience was wonderful, with roughly 30 neighbors taking part. I heard from several people that they had never once been to the festival, despite living in the neighborhood for over a decade!
For me, last week’s tour reflects what I love about Saint Paul, and specifically about my ward. I love to see people celebrating their community and culture, saying “yes” to new and unfamiliar experiences, and proudly sharing their culture with their neighbors.
I had a wonderful time at the first Como Neighbors Tour of the Hmong Freedom Celebration – and I’m really looking forward to going again next year. I hope you’ll join me!

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