The first thing to know about the 37th annual Wichita Asian Festival is that it is a celebration for all ethnicities: a chance for the many Asian communities in Wichita to come together and celebrate their traditions while inviting the entire community to learn and appreciate the Asian culture.
“Most people would think this is a festival for Asian people but if you go, you’ll find that more than half of the people who attend don’t look Asian. There are a lot of different races who come out to do exactly what the founders of the festival wanted: enjoy Asian culture,” said Kathy Ewing, president of the Wichita Asian Association.
Volunteers from the Wichita Asian Association organize the annual festival to help keep the expression of Asian cultural arts alive. The association was founded in 1981 by community members wanting to share their culture with the city.
This year’s event is scheduled for 5-9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28, at Century II Convention & Exhibition Hall. The event is free and open to the public, though you’ll want to bring cash for the nearly 50 food and merchandise booths. Donations are accepted for the festival’s program, which provides a map and listing of the cultural and artistic events of more than 15 Asian cultures that take place.
The event has steadily grown to take up both the Convention Hall and the Exhibition Hall at Century II. An estimated 12,000 attended last year and organizers expect similar crowds this year. One of the biggest draws is that for one evening, you can taste authentic food from nearly a dozen Asian countries under one roof.
“You name the Asian country, we have the food,” Ewing said. “You can easily have a meal for less than $10, it just depend how many items you want to try.”
Food is served a la carte from booths operated by restaurant owners, food truck operators, student groups from local colleges and accomplished home chefs serving delicacies of their home countries, ranging from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
In addition to culinary arts, the festival invites local and regional vendors to sell artwork and crafts, including items not normally available in Wichita.
Eight young ladies will compete that evening in the Miss Asian Festival scholarship pageant, and local Asian performers will showcase their traditional music and dances throughout the evening with more than a dozen stage performances. The entertainment headliner this year offers a unique and rare opportunity for the public to observe and learn about Korean culture. Houston-based Kim Kuja School of Dance incorporates costumes and various musical instruments into their beautiful and entertaining Korean dance program.
According to ThaiBinh Ninh, co-chair of the festival marketing committee, the event is very family-friendly, so you won’t find alcohol served and there’s a focus on activities to keep kids entertained. She said there will be a kids corner with hands-on activities like making paper lanterns and koi fish kits, as well as stations for games and face painting.