The colors, costumes and cuisine from dozens of countries filled the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall on Saturday for the 17th annual Asia Pacific New Year Celebration.
Organizers estimated between 8,000 and 10,000 people attended the daylong free festival put on by Tacoma’s Asia Pacific Cultural Center.
“I met this Croatian lady on the bus, and she told me about it. So we came here together,” Tsering Choedon said while putting together a paper lotus flower. The Oregon women is in Tacoma visiting her children.
More than 75 booths offered food, crafts, products, services and more. On the main stage, dancers performed traditional dances from Japan, Hawaii, India, Fiji and Vietnam, among other locales. A secondary stage featured martial arts demonstrations.
“You know you’re never going to travel to all of these places. This is the closest you’ll get,” said Sandy Hitchcock of Olympia, who spent most of the day at the festival just soaking it in. “I had Indonesian food for lunch! I had never had that before.”
Hitchcock had a henna tattoo on her hand, which is part of a Pakistani mehndi tradition that usually happens before a wedding. Pakistan was this year’s host community for the event, a role APCC founder Patsy Surh O’Connell said they took on with gusto.
Too often, the only news Americans hear of Pakistan is negative, she said. The festival gave the Pakistani community in Western Washington an opportunity to shine.
“We wanted to show that they have a rich culture to share,” O’Connell said.
Munir Rizvi, who helped lead the Pakistani community’s involvement in the festival, said that when he came to the greater Seattle area in 1979, there were around 20 Pakistani families. Now, he said, there are 10,000.
“We’ve grown a bit,” he said.
Raisa Janjua, an 18-year-old Pakistani student from Kentwood High School, said she expected to help teach others about Pakistani culture as she drew the temporary henna tattoos throughout the day. But to her delight, she ended up learning a lot as well.
“I didn’t know about a lot of other cultures before today,” she said.