The Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce will host the 15th annual Charlotte Asian Festival and Dragon Boat Festival on May 17 at Ramsey Creek Park in Cornelius.
The free event generally draws around 4,000-7,000 people, said Chamber chairman John Chen. It is considered the Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerces community outreach event, both for the Asian population and the community at large.
Chen, a retired chemical engineer, said it is also a way of thanking neighbors for hospitality to the Asian-American community.
The festival is held in May in recognition of Asian-Pacific Heritage Month.
For the Asian community in the Carolinas, this is a signature event, Chen said.
Asian countries and groups represented in the greater Charlotte area include Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hmong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Montagnard, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, according to the chamber.
The groups website says in the 1960s there were fewer than 200 Asian-Americans and just eight Asian businesses in Charlotte. Today, that number has grown to about 70,000 residents with hundreds of businesses that contribute to the local economy.
Uptown Charlotte is also home to one of the largest private Asian library in the United States, the Asian Herald Library on Baxter Street.
The Charlotte Asian Festival consists of several elements, including dragon boat racing, cultural programs and exhibits, vendors, food, the Miss Asia Carolinas Scholarship Contest and more.
When the Asian Festival began in 2000, it was held at Marshall Park in Charlotte.
In 2006, dragon boat racing was added, and the festival moved to the Lake Norman area. It has been held at Ramsey Creek Park since.
Each dragon boat team consists of 20 rowers and one drummer, a sort of cheerleader, who sits at the head of the boat and drums the pace set by the first row in the boat, said Chen. The drummer is often a coach.
Being part of a dragon boat team is in itself a tremendous community-building event, said Chen.
In 2013, 37 teams entered. This year about 40 will compete, including teams from as far as Canada and Baltimore.
Among them are several teams of breast cancer survivors, Chen said. Many Charlotte and Lake-area companies and organizations also have teams that participate.
The stage programs, which begin after the opening ceremony, consist of about 3 1/2 hours of entertainment, including the Miss Asia Carolinas Scholarship Contest for high-school and college-age girls and a cultural program representing various Asian cultures in the greater-Charlotte area. This year, the show may include a special reunion of past Miss Asia Carolinas winners.
Marjorie Dana is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marjorie? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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