Hmoobfest this weekend aims to unite communities

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009 3:06 PM CDT

Hmoobfest ‘09 is kind of like a neighbor who brings over a hot dish after you moved into your new house.

The celebration Saturday and Sunday at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls will be an opportunity to chat and get to know more about the Hmong culture that’s been part of western Wisconsin life since 1976.

“Even though we live together, we pretty much live in our own separate worlds,” said Evan Xiong, executive director of the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association.

Hmoobfest (Hmoob is the Hmong spelling for Hmong) aims to change that with a family-oriented interactive festival.

Visitors can learn how to make traditional eggrolls, find out how to do Paj Ntaub (traditional Hmong embroidery), play the Qeej (a traditional wind instrument) or play Tub Lub (a top spin game) or Kab taub (bamboo foot volleyball).

“We want to build an authentic Hmong house,” Xiong said.

He explained the traditional houses can range from small to large, depending if it is intended to house an extended family of a couple of generations under one roof.

“We’re looking at putting up the house the first day,” he said. The construction will be in front of the fairgrounds’ grandstand.

There will also be family games, such as tug of war, a dunk tank and water balloon toss. Also planned are a Hmong spelling bee, a speech contest and a traditional Hmong dance competition.

Plus there will be traditional singing (kwv txhia), storytelling (dab neeg) and riddles (lus taum).

Traditional foods will be available, including chicken, egg rolls and a dessert called Navah. Laotian-style dishes will also be sold, Xiong said.

The Hmong came to the United States after fighting on behalf of the U.S. during the Vietnam War. The association said the first Hmong family moved to Eau Claire in 1976 and since then, more than 4,000 Hmong have come to live in Chippewa, Eau Claire and Dunn counties.

“A main focus of the event is to have the larger community come out and experience it with us,” Xiong said.

He said the association decided the buildings and available room at the fairgrounds made it the ideal place to hold Hmoobfest.

Xiong said perhaps over the next few years, Hmoobfest will evolve into a multi-cultural event. But the idea this year is for people to get together and have a good time.

“This is for the community to come out. And it’s a family-oriented event,” Xiong said.


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