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Cambodian Celebration Continues Growth Spurt

Community festival returns to Alexandria for second year.

Boran Tum recalled that the last few editions of the Cambodian Community Day celebration have felt like they were being held in Cambodia. "Lately, the weather has been hot at that time in August," said Tum, the chairman of this year’s festival. "Hopefully the next couple of weeks will be OK."

This is the sixth year for the Cambodian Day festival, an annual one-day event that celebrates the cuisine and heritage of the local Cambodian community in Alexandria and Arlington.

"It’s gotten bigger. People have started to recognize it, and the people who participate in it want to know more about the Cambodian community," said Tum.

The festival was held on and off for years in Arlington County before relocating to Alexandria last year. This year’s edition will be held at Ben Brenman Park, 5000 Duke St., on Aug. 27 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Alexandria’s special events office estimated that around 2,000 people attended last year’s Cambodian Community Day festival.

WHILE MANY OF ALEXANDRIA’S ethnic festivals focus on food, the Cambodian Day festivities balance cuisine with a slate of performances that exemplify heritage and the importance of sharing history with new generations.

Tum said cultural shows are put on by members of the community, supported by professionally trained performers from Cambodian temples in Maryland. The shows feature artistic performances of classical, traditional and folk dances. "It maintains the traditional, cultural dance," said Tum. "Keeping the heritage to stay alive."

There are also traditional folk games held during the festival, played mostly be Cambodian children. These young members are a key component of the festival, as they learn traditional dances throughout the year leading up to the community day.

Arts and crafts are available from vendors, and members of the community provide food available for purchase.

The CCD committee believes that the celebration of the Cambodian Community Day is a noble act," Tum said on the festival’s Web site, www.cambodiancommunityday.org, which has full information about the event, "it is one of the best ways to help promote and preserve the Cambodian heritages here in America."