The aroma of freshly cooked meat, the sound of foreign words mixing together in the background and distant drumming from lion dance music are all signs that the Tet Festival is in season.
The 38th annual festival took place at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa this weekend as the year of the pig was celebrated.
The opening ceremony on Saturday afternoon welcomed Vietnamese veterans as they marched in proudly carrying both the Vietnamese and American flags, a significant gesture representing the unity of the two cultures.
Following this theme of Asian-American pride, the audience stood in silence as the Vietnamese national anthem played and stayed standing as a young woman proudly sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Union of Vietnamese Student Association (UVSA) hosted the annual Tet festival and chose this year’s theme to be “Stories of Our Heritage” as a reminder for the youth not to forget where they came from.
Activities for all ages occurred throughout the three-day festival to encourage participation from attendees. From watching singers and dancers on the main stage to speed eating pho on the contest stage, the festival’s agenda didn’t leave any room for boredom.
The amount of food vendors lining the aisles seemed never-ending. While this event introduced people to many traditional Vietnamese dishes, there were a variety of other unique options to satisfy every craving, from authentic Japanese takoyaki and Korean street food to Nashville–style chicken.
Attendees could also view and take pictures of Làng Viet Nam, a carefully designed replica of a Vietnamese village. Làng Viet Nam was fascinating by itself, but the Ai Nam Quan bridge and petting zoo were only a few of the unique exhibits that made the village a main attraction.
The village stage had its own performances from the local community and attendees themselves. As the night came to a close on each of the three days, the village hosted live karaoke performances where participants sang songs while friends, families and strangers in the audience cheered them on.
Làng Viet Nam also served as an interactive display of everyone’s wishes for the new year. Provided with colorful paper in different shapes and sizes, attendees were encouraged to write their personal hopes and dreams and display it for others to read.
There were also many influencers at the festival that catered to the younger Asian-American community. The performances of JRA, the JRod Twins and G Yamazawa brought much excitement to the high school and college students who have been longtime fans of their work.
A couple team members from Wong Fu Productions also made an appearance on Sunday at the contests stage. Benson Quach, the producer and assistant director, and Jennifer Le, the social media manager and graphic designer, participated in a meet and greet to talk about their involvement with the team and share their experiences.
Even more thrilling than the influencers was the performance by the students of the Thien An Performing Arts group. The performance was a story about two siblings growing apart and reuniting, with synchronized drumming and dance integrated into the performance.
Saturday was the most popular of the three days, with free admission into the festival from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for wearing traditional outfits or military or scout uniforms. Before even entering the venue, men, women and children could be spotted wearing the traditional Vietnamese áo dài garments.
Cal State Fullerton VSA
Past the food courts was a row of game booths occupied by Vietnamese Student Association groups from different colleges in California. The universities that were present included Chapman, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Fullerton.
CSUF’s VSA held a game booth called “can you dua it?,” which was a game that tested one’s chopsticks abilities. The group’s goal was to raise money for their annual Vietnamese culture night, an event full of singing, dancing and activities that embrace Vietnamese heritage, according to club member Danny Binh.
Not even rain could stop the 20th annual Tet Parade from taking place, as participants strutted in vibrant Vietnamese attire down Bolsa Avenue in Westminster. The Saturday parade was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., but an influx of rain delayed the start until noon.
The sound of firecrackers and beating drums vibrated through the crisp air to mark the start of the procession. Over 70 groups and organizations took part in the festivities, from lion dancing and martial arts demonstrations to decorative floats and motorcycle gangs.
City council members from all across Orange County paraded along with the performers, riding high in horse-drawn carriages and horse-powered sports cars. High school bands and color guard groups from Westminster provided a steady flow of music as they marched in style.