The world will be watching Friday night when Beijing opens this year’s Summer Olympics. With much attention drawn to Chinese culture, history and tradition, the local Asian community will showcase its many traditions at the Fifth Annual Asian Festival.
"We want to raise awareness of Asian cultures," said Joanne Duangmanee, a board member of the Thai Tennis Organization in America (TTOA), the main organizer of the festival. "There will be so many things there that you can’t find anywhere else in the area."
The festival’s four stages will feature live entertainment, including music and martial arts performances. The two-day festival also offers its guests sports tournaments and demonstrations, food and other activities.
Duangmanee said native arts and crafts from participating countries are sure to interest visitors. "These are items you will not find at the mall," she said. Authentic foods are also a part of the festival. Duangmanee said the participating restaurants were asked to prepare specialty foods. "A lot of it is off the menu" at area Asian restaurants, she said. One of the offerings that has her excited is the Burmese food, especially since there are not many Burmese restaurants in the area, she said.
The organizers are also striving to present live entertainment as would be seen in the participating countries. "There are a lot of dances that I’ve never seen from different countries," said Duangmanee of prior festivals. The musical performances feature instruments that are rarely seen outside their place of origin, "Something made hundreds of years ago," she said.
"The festival recognizes the cultural diversity that Reston has and was founded on," said Larry Butler, the Parks and Recreation Director for Reston Association, one of the festival hosts. "It present an opportunity for other cultures to see what these Asian cultures have to show," said Butler. "It’s a really neat opportunity to bring everyone together."
THE TWO-DAY free admission festival at the Lake Newport Tennis facility off of Baron Cameron Avenue in Reston will present special performances from traveling dance troupes and welcome special guests on Saturday, Aug. 9, and Sunday, Augu. 10. They will include performances from the Cambodian-American Dance Company and the Columbia University Indian bhangra team. The Chinese Olympic Village will present an Olympic parade and traditional Chinese dances. The key note speaker at the festival’s opening is Benita Fitzgeral Mosley, an Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meter hurdles event at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
While environmental concerns are clouding the Olympic Games in Beijing, the Asian Festival organizers are doing their best to promote sound environmental practices. The festival has tasked The Green Business, a Reston company that specializes in environmental audits. "The event organizers as well as Reston Association are fully on-board with the green initiatives," said Jorge Morera, the director of business development at The Green Business. "Because of the large size of the event there’s an excellent potential to really make a difference when it comes to the environment."
"It’s something we had thought about last year," said Butler, but the implementation of the green practices was a challenge. This year, he said, the goal is to recycle as much of the material that is generated as possible. With almost 50,000 visitors expected, the festival could generate much recyclable material, such as water bottles. Butler said festivals create a large amount of waste because they host many people in a confined space and in a short amount of time. He said he thinks festivals in the future will follow the example of the Asian Festival and implement green practices for their celebrations. Aside from an extensive recycling initiative at the festival, the organizers are also reserving priority parking spots for low emissions vehicles and free valet parking for bicycles.
ANOTHER POINT the hosts are stressing is that visitors should not attempt to park at the festival site. "We are absolutely discouraging people parking locally," said Butler. Instead, the organizers are urging visitors to park by the Reston Association headquarters at Isaac Newton Square and ride a shuttle bus to the festival. Local streets will be patrolled to ensure no cars are parked in the neighborhoods.
For more information on the 5th Annual Asian Festival, or to see the schedule of events, visit <a href=http://asianfestivaldc.com> asianfestivaldc.com</a>.