Patrick Choung’s parents fled from Cambodia in 1985 to escape the the Khymer Rouge regime.. Choung’s father was a soldier in the army and his mother had already been arrested once, but escaped. Choung was born and raised in the U.S. and often feels disconnected with his native culture.
The Cambodian Community Day Festival serves as a vehicle for second generation Cambodians and people of different backgrounds to learn about Cambodian culture.
This year’s festival will take place Aug. 26th at Ben Brenman Park.
The festival is a long day event that incorporates traditional Cambodian song and dance, arts and crafts and various activities for children. The annual celebration has taken place in Alexandria for the past six years.
The Cambodian Community Day committee puts the festival together with help from the city of Alexandria. The CCD is a non-profit organization working to raise awareness about Cambodian culture.
This year’s festival will begin with an arts and crafts exhibition, friendship building and networking and popular and folk children games 11 a.m.-12 p.m. The festival will continue with musical acts and end in the afternoon with Cambodian classical dances and shows. A live band is scheduled to play towards the end of the day. The festival is from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
CCD co-chairperson, Boran Tum, said he expects at least 3,000 people to attend. He said the largest turn out in past festivals was 6,000 in 2003. "All kinds of people attend," Tum said, "especially Americans who live in the area."
TUM SAID that one of the organization’s chief missions was to "show Americans that Cambodia has rich cultural activity." He said people often recognize Cambodia as a killing field, not as a country rich in tradition and culture.
Cambodia suffered a period of violence during the Vietnam War and Khymer Rouge reign. It is estimated that 1-3 million people died during that time period.
Another priority for the CCD is educating U.S.-born children of Cambodian descent about their parent’s culture. "When they grow up here they don’t know much about their culture and it’s important that they learn about their heritage," said CCD co-chairperson Sophia Tep.
Choung has attended the festival almost every year and even participated in a traditional dance number in last year’s festival. He said attending and being apart of the festivities reconnects him with his parent’s culture.
"When you live in American and your parents from another country, you tend to forget because we live in such a different environment," said Choung, "Doing something like this helps you learn and appreciate where you are from."
Choung said that he also enjoys it because the whole Cambodian community comes out with their kids and share experiences and their culture with people of different backgrounds.