Athletics playing a big part in Hmong Summer Festival

Monday, July 20, 2009

By KATE MCGINTY • Sheboygan Press staff • July 19, 2009

Hundreds of Hmong team members will rush to Kiwanis Park next weekend to kick off a flag-football competition, something new being added to the Hmong Summer Festival's lineup of athletic competitions that already includes basketball, soccer and volleyball.

More than 3,000 Hmong will flock from across the state and as far as St. Paul, Minn., to compete in the games, Chue Neng Lee, chairman of the festival, said.

"This generation, there is much more interest in basketball and football," Lee said. "We would have included them in the last couple of years, but for some reason we couldn't find a person who could coordinate. This year, we're lucky."

He expects to see as many as 15 teams, with 30 to 50 players each, compete in flag football, a popular twist on football in which players pluck flags from opponents instead of tackling them.

Teams can register until the day of the event, but will pay registration fees from $50 to $100, depending on the event, unless they decide on advance registration.

The Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, which hosts the festival, will hand out more than $10,000 in cash prizes to winning sports teams.

Any remaining proceeds from the festival will be donated to the association, which provides services to refugees and the Hmong community of Sheboygan with English, citizenship and Hmong music classes, educational workshops and cultural displays.

Merchants will also be on hand to show off their Hmong clothes, food and homemade jewelry.

"The whole event, it's fun," Lee said.

In another nod to the changing tastes of the younger Hmong generation, the festival will drop its traditional top-spinning contest this year. In years past, festival-goers have faced off to spin wooden tops and see whose top spun the longest. Interest has dwindled, Lee said.

The Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, a nonprofit that was created in 1980, has run the Hmong Summer Festival for nearly its entire history.

The Hmong New Year, celebrated near Thanksgiving, is the only other major Hmong celebration.

Reach Kate McGinty at and 453-5125.


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