8th Asian-American Festival draws thousands to Port Washington

From left: Min Sun Kim, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, North Hempstead Town Councilman Peter Zuckerman, and Herricks school board Trustee Juleigh Chin pose at Saturday's Asian-American Festival in Port Washington. (Photo courtesy of George Maragos' office)

By David Pollard

From food and live music to fashion, many aspects of Asian-American culture were on display Saturday afternoon in Port Washington.

Thousands of people attended the eighth annual Asian-American Festival at North Hempstead Beach Park, where Asian-Americans with ties to countries such as China, Japan, India and South Korea and more were on hand to share part of their culture with the public.

Wayne Wink, the North Hempstead town clerk, welcomed everyone in attendance, saying positive things come from learning about different cultures.

“When we learn from each other (cultures) we are wiser and more understanding of different cultures other than our own,” he said.

And there was plenty to learn for newcomers and those who have attended every year.

Annie Vogel, 18, of West Hempstead, performed on stage as part of a Chinese lion dance troop. She is a part of the Chinese Cultural Center in Long Island, and members of the troops have come to perform regularly.

“We perform here every year,” she said. “We really love coming out here. It’s really nice.”

Juleigh Chin, who is a member of the festival’s planning committee and a Herricks school board trustee, had one of a dozen tents set up to showcase Asian culture.

In her tent, Chin highlighted her South Korean culture by having men and woman try on a hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing for men and women, which was often a flowing dress for the woman and outfit resembling a two-piece suit for the man.

The hanboks were made in various styles and colors, and many came from her own closet.

“It’s a chance for everybody to know the culture,” she said.

Others tried on Japanese kimonos, sampled the different kinds of Asian food for sale and watched the entertainment on stage stemming from different Asian cultures.

Levan Greaves, 38, of West Hempstead, who is African-American, brought his family to the event instead of going to play softball. He believed it was important for him and his family to learn about different cultures.

“We moved to the area in 2014 and have been coming ever since,” he said. “We look forward to it. We like Asian culture and we are really infatuated with the Indian culture.”

Tai Wang, co-founder of Port Washington-based Wang Alliance Corp., also known as WAC Lighting, sponsored the event and said she has been working for a long time making sure that Asian youth are in touch with their culture.

“It’s important to bring culture to the next generation,” she said. “It’s also about letting the community know about us.”

Peter Gong, 74, an Asian-American Vietnam veteran, said he has experienced first-hand where his race and culture have clashed at times with his duty as a soldier. But he wore his uniform proudly at the event, when he led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance before  the event officially started.

He said the festival is a great event, but as the Asian population continues to grow in Nassau County, more need to step out and get more involved in the community.

“They (Asian-Americans) still don’t want to get out and do things,” he said. “I’m like a pioneer, but they need to know that it is good to get out.”

Still, organizers said more people continue to come each year.

Bhavani Srinivasan, an Indian-American, described the event as “colorful.”

“Some years I do participate and there were some years when I have been an emcee,” she said. “This event fosters strength and continuity in the community, camaraderie and general goodwill.”

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