Asian American cultural festival celebrates AANHPI heritage

The celebration hosted performances and vendors representing several countries in Asia

The Orlando Young Lions perform at the Asian Cultural Festival. (Agnes Chau)

OCOEE, Fla. – For the first time since the pandemic began, festival-goers packed the Ocoee Lakeshore Center and Bill Breeze Park to attend Sunday’s Asian Cultural Festival.

Hosted by the Asian American Heritage Council of Central Florida, the festival consisted of a large outside area with dozens of vendors and featured ongoing performances from several Asian American organizations.

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The performances began at noon and lasted throughout the entire ceremony, representing eight countries in Asia. The CHARGE Dragon Boat Team opened the performances, followed by the Orlando Young Lions from the Youth Enrichment and Senior Services.

“I’m so proud of them,” said Agnes Chau, director of the Orlando Young Lions. “They loved it. In a couple months, they learned everything from scratch from their sifu (master).”

During the performances, dozens of vendors sat outside the Ocoee Lakeshore Center, waiting to inform passersby about their booths.

Michael Pascall slashes at a coconut for the Aroy Thai vendor. (Brianna Ellis)

Michael Pascall sat in the grass near the Aroy Thai Restaurant’s tent, hammering off coconut tops so thirsty eventgoers could enjoy fresh coconut water. Like many other vendors, a long line trailed out from beneath the tent.

“The coconut water went out fast,” said Pauline Ho, the festival’s auditor and sponsorship chair. “Almost all food vendors ran out of food, so it was a good sign.”

While food and drink were big hits at the festival, it wasn’t the only industry with tents.

Bret Gordon manned the table for the Trio Martial Arts program. With a master-level certification in both Japanese and Korean martial arts, Gordon loves to teach others about his passion.

“I’ve been doing martial arts since I was four,” Gordon said. “Eventually, I realized I wanted to teach.”

Enthusiastic high schoolers also gathered at the booths, representing REACH (Recognizing and Experiencing Asian Cultural Heritage), an organization aiming to raise money for the upcoming GWN International Dragon Boat Festival in mid-October.

Apopka High School freshman Colin Poon led the charge of raising money for REACH by selling items such as Asian jewelry and snacks.

“We’re all in high school, but we’re from lots of different high schools across Orange and Seminole counties,” Poon said. “So, it’s really a group effort.”

At the end of the day, the organizers of the Asian Cultural Festival were satisfied with a job well done.

“The turnout exceeded our expectation,” Ho said. “The ballroom was always packed with people either standing or sitting on the floor, watching performances.”

About the Author:

Brianna Ellis joined News 6 in September.