Created on Tuesday, 01 November 2011 10:14
Written by Chad Dally
Organizers of this weekend's Hmong New Year celebration said jubilation during this year's event will be tempered by concerns over the economy.
The annual celebration takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Greenheck Field House in Weston, and is expected to draw thousands of Hmong and non-Hmong people from around Wausau and beyond.
This year's celebration includes live music and dancing, food and vendors selling toys, clothing, music and movies. Guest speakers will be U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston, and Kaying Xiong of Eau Claire, the first and only Hmong school principal in Wisconsin, said Peter Yang, director of the Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association. Some local clans already have started the new year celebrations over the past two weeks with events at Marathon Park in Wausau involving musical and dance performances along with meals, Yang said.
The Hmong New Year celebration begins after the fall harvest as families perform ceremonies and take part in festivities -- traditionally for one week. But along with celebrations of the harvest and Hmong history and culture, Yang said the economic climate also will be weighing on the minds of many people at the weekend event.
"Considering the economy we're experiencing, it's been difficult for many families in the community, though I think people are trying to make the best of what they have," Yang said. "Looking to the coming year, people are hoping things get better -- the economy gets better, people can get jobs again and support their families and hopefully have a better year."
Over the past year, Hmong residents increasingly have turned to the Hmong Mutual Association for help with rent, mortgage and even food after losing jobs or homes, Yang said. That includes about 35 to 40 families per month for which the association has provided rice.
"That's something we've never done before," Yang said.
Still, for some, the new year celebration is an exciting -- and even nerve-racking -- event.
Hmong Youth Tapestry, a group of about 15 local performers ages 10 to 15, is tackling a new dance number that the group has rehearsed since August, said Nyia Thao, 20, one of the group leaders.
"Some people in the group have performed before and are fine with it; it's just the younger kids that are nervous," Thao said. "It's pretty exciting -- I can't wait to see them perform, and they're looking forward to it, too."