This year’s 16th annual Asian Festival will be held June 11 at the Savannah Civic Center from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Asian Festival is organized by the City of Savannah’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Asian American volunteers. The Civic Center will be packed with performances, food and other festivities all centered around Asian culture.
There will be a total of nine performances throughout the day ranging from singing to acrobatics. All of the food will be provided by local restaurants and will represent a multitude of Asian cultures. A cultural marketplace will be set up with vendors selling items including Asian-inspired merchandise such as clothing, jewelry and Japanese art papers. There is also a range of hands-on activities for children that will be available. The festival is free and open to the public except for any food or cultural marketplace items that are purchased.
Jessica Putallaz, marketing coordinator with the City of Savannah, commented on why the festival is good for the city of Savannah:
“[People] get a chance to see what a lot of people don’t know, that Asia encompasses the Middle East, the Polynesian Islands, India and Russia. It’s a good place to come and see all of the different cultures in one place. It’s a fun event [that’s] family [oriented] and friendly.”
This year’s festival will mix up the line-up with a few new local organizations participating. “The Savannah Japan Club and the Savannah Zen Center will be there,” Putallaz said.
However, after 15 previous festivals with an average of 12,000 to 15,000 people attending each festival there are some repeat performers that are “crowd favorites,” like the Matsuriza Taiko Drummers.
Reba Maloata’s dance group, The Children of Polynesia, is another repeat performance. Maloata’s group has been apart of the Asian Festival for nine years.
“The awareness of the event has also grown over these nine years,” she said. “I can remember us doing performances outside with vendors under the covering of the Civic Center and some in the lobby area. Progressing to the arena area was a tremendous improvement where we could all be together.”
The ages of the dancers in The Children of Polynesia range from 6 to 30 years old. One thing that can be expected of the group’s performance this year is beauty, according to Maloata. They will be doing a number of dances from different cultures including Hawaiian, Tahitian Islands, New Zealand and Samoan.
“We do a variety to give a good taste of what the Polynesian Islands are about,” said Maloata.
Maloata feels that this festival is important because it allows adults and children to learn about the cultures.
“Our children are not raised in their culture. They are so far from home. Being able to come to this festival helps educate them, as well. For the city to allow these cultures to come together to show others is wonderful,” she said.Contact Augusta Statz.