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Inaugural Denver AAPI Culture Festival: Asian Pacific Heritage Month event showcased Colorado’s vibrant AAPI communities

By Vivian Egnonio-Norman

The inaugural Denver AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Culture Festival was a cross-cultural celebration of arts and culture that showcased the rich and diverse traditions of AAPI communities. Held on Saturday, May 11, at the McNichols Civic Center in Denver, the event drew approximately 1,700 attendees from various backgrounds.

Seven people wearing white t-shirts pose for a photo at the festival.
AAPI Culture Festival Committee from left: Jackie Tran, Vivian Norman, Jory Zhang, Mary Gough, Stella Yu, Gigi de Gala, and Abbie Kozik. Missing: Amelie Hubert, Whitnee Nguyen, Yangmee Lor, and Presley Doyle.

The festival was a testament to the diversity of the AAPI communities, with ten distinct hubs representing Chinatown, Filipino Barrio, Hawaiian Hale, Himalayan Climbers, Hmong Village, Japan Square, Korea Town, Lao Village, Mongolian Village, and Little Saigon. Each hub hosted vendors and workshops, shared their unique food and culture, and raised awareness of their community’s traditions. 

An art exhibit, “Reclaiming & Celebrating AAPI Identity,” showcased works by renowned and local AAPI artists. 

AAPI entertainment provided a vibrant mix of traditional dance and music from various AAPI cultures, including performances by the Filipino American Community of Colorado (Padayon Cultural Group), Lao Art Performers of Colorado, Great Wall Chinese Academy, Thai Harmony Traditional Arts Ensemble, Nguyen Thieu’s Vietnamese Fan Dances, Royal Dance Team’s K-Pop, and KalaCOa and Halau Kalama’s Hawaiian music and hula. 

Artisans’ booths lined the pathways, offering intricate handicrafts, textiles, and artworks, while food trucks provided an array of culinary delights, from sushi and dim sum to bibimbap and Filipino desserts such as bico (sweet rice). Few demonstrations and workshops allowed attendees to engage directly.

Attendees had the opportunity to engage directly with the AAPI cultures through demonstrations and workshops, adding an interactive element to their festival experience. Children’s activities and crafts ensured the festival was family-friendly and educational.

The festival concluded with Jory Zhang, Chair of the Denver AAPI Commission, presenting a $2,000 check to Colorado Asian Pacific United (CAPU) to aid in the restoration of Denver’s Chinatown Historic Marker, which was vandalized earlier this year.

The community at large was able to learn about each AAPI culture to gain a deeper appreciation of how diverse and vibrant Colorado is.

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