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South Valley Journal

Utah Asian Festival celebrates 45 years of connection and celebration

Jul 01, 2022 12:03PM ● By Peri Kinder

By Peri Kinder | [email protected]

The Utah Asian Festival, the longest-running festival of its kind west of the Mississippi, will be held in the Grand Building of the Utah State Fairpark (155 N. 1000 West) on Saturday, July 9, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

Founded in 1977, the festival showcases Asian traditions, cuisine, dance, art and music from the dozens of nationalities that make up Utah’s fastest-growing ethnic population. Founders Jimi Mitsunaga, Lang Wong, Joe Arzacon and Chung Mun Lee organized the first festival with a vision to strengthen the connection between Asian communities in the state and cultivate ties with Utah residents.

“In 2022, we will be celebrating 45 years of success,” said Dr. Shu Cheng, executive director of the Asian Association of Utah. “Three generations of Asian Americans have volunteered to make the annual Utah Asian Festival fun and educational. The event transforms Asian Americans into leaders and consolidates them into a cohesive core in Utah.”

Asian people have been part of the state’s history for more than 150 years. In September 2020, archaeologists from the Utah State Historic Preservation Office discovered remnants of a house built by Chinese railroad workers. Preservation officer Chris Merritt declared it to be “the first Chinese [transcontinental railroad workers’] home…in the entire nation.”

Utah’s leaders have assisted the federal government in sponsoring the resettlement of Asian immigrants and refugees from the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand and more, whose descendants have put down roots in the Beehive State.

“Not only will this all-day gathering serve to connect recent immigrants and refugees to the historic diasporas in the region, [but the festival] is a platform deeply benefiting Utahns of any background, honoring the ways in which our state’s Asian families have preserved, persevered and flourished against the odds,” said UAF chairwoman Eunice Lanean. “[It’s an] opportunity to reunite with old friends, make new ones, break bread with our elders and youth, and forge bonds across generations that will last generations.”

The festival attracts thousands of people from all parts of the state and is the only event where Utah’s Asian communities come together to celebrate and honor their heritage, traditions and vibrant culture. This year’s event is described as “the boldest iteration yet” for the multicultural festival. For more information, visit UtahAsianFestival.org.

“When I learned that UAF originated as an attempt to unify the various Asian ethnic groups, I felt a sense of duty to continue the mission, especially in the midst of resurgent anti-Asian violence and discrimination,” said Emilio Manuel Camu, UAF’s co-chair. “Our committee's duty is to honor the past, remain relevant to all our peoples’ needs, and create durable, meaningful, cross-cultural and inter-generational friendships along the way.”