Eugene Weekly : Culture : 2.14.08

Food, Art & Culture — Asian Style
The 23rd annual Asian Festival celebrates pan-Asian heritage

The Asian Celebration has been around for 23 years (since 1985 if you don’t want to do the math). I have been in Eugene since 1991, and somehow I didn’t discover the Asian Celebration until I started taking my daughter there six years ago. While she doesn’t remember the sights and sounds quite as vividly as I do, she still fondly retains the souvenirs we brought home from that first visit to the festival. Her name, written in Chinese in strong black ink strokes, is still proudly tacked into the wall above her desk. And a bright pink and green intricately folded origami lotus flower, courtesy of the Falun Dafa society, still perches on her bookcase, only slightly distressed by the passage of years.

If you have been like me and ignored the posters, thinking how fun it looked but not actually bringing yourself to stand in line for a ticket, do so this year. I’m sure it will be as fun as ever, whether you’re taking yourself and your kids for the first, fifth or 23rd time.

If you have no demands on your time and just want to explore and experience, go early both days for the Waka Daiko Taiko drumming and the Chinese Lion Dance. An important aspect of New Year’s celebrations, the dance is thought to bring luck and happiness. The dance is a thrilling cacophony of sight and noise, as the two dancers handle the head and body of a golden lion, their dance moves based on kung fu and accompanied by three musicians playing a large drum, cymbals and gong. The only problem with going early is that if you can’t stay, you’ll miss out on all the great stuff later on, like Hawai’ian dance, North Indian Bhangra dance and the award-winning Portland Taiko drumming performances.

Luckily, the art exhibits, martial arts and craft demonstrations run throughout the day, though you may have to decide between orchid care and tai chi in the morning and papermaking and anime workshops in the afternoon. Kids’ exhibits run all day and include puppet shows, martial arts exhibitions, dance performances and art workshops in the youth room. Children are invited to take a “Passport to Adventure” and walk around the celebration, stopping at marked booths to learn about important discoveries and receive a stamp in their passport. Once their passports are all stamped up, kids get a prize. If your offspring don’t need to be at the kids’ table anymore, just walk around the main floor, where artisans and merchants have set up booths and where the smell of fried rice and egg rolls ultimately proves irresistible (even after I tell myself each year that I will save my money and not buy food).

The theme this year is Great ExplorAsians, and along with that is an exhibit of items invented by Asians that have taken hold in the daily life of people in this country and around the globe. Go ahead, try to think of one. Stumped? The karaoke machine. Japanese for “empty orchestra,” the machine was first manufactured in the Philippines by a man who happens to be the father of an Asian Celebration committee member. The karaoke machine is just one of many items on display which are Asian in origin and have changed our lives.

Asian Celebration. Lane County Fairgrounds. Saturday, Feb.16, 10 am-8 pm,and Sunday, Feb. 17, 10 am-6 pm. Adults $4/day, 12 and under free.