Asian American Cultural Festival Celebrates AANHPI Legacy

OCOEE, Florida. – For the first time since the start of the pandemic, festival-goers filled the Ocoee Lakeshore Center and Bill Breeze Park to attend Sunday’s Asian Cultural Festival.

Hosted by the Asian American Heritage Council of Central Florida, the festival consisted of a large outdoor space with dozens of vendors and featured ongoing performances from several Asian American organizations.

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Performances began at noon and lasted throughout the ceremony, representing eight countries across Asia. The CHARGE Dragon Boat team opened the performances, followed by the Orlando Young Lions of Youth Enrichment and Senior Services.

“I’m so proud of them,” Orlando Young Lions manager Agnes Chau said. “They loved it. In a few months, they learned everything from zero to their sifu (master).

During the performances, dozens of vendors sat outside the Ocoee Lakeshore Center, waiting to let passers-by know of their booths.

Michael Pascall cuts a coconut for vendor Aroy Thai. (Brianna Ellis)

Michael Pascall sat in the grass near the tent at Thai restaurant Aroy, pounding coconut tops so thirsty onlookers could enjoy the fresh coconut water. Like many other vendors, there was a long line coming out of the tent.

“The coconut water ran out quickly,” said festival listener and patronage chair Pauline Ho. “Almost all the food vendors ran out of food, so that was a good sign.”

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While food and drink were big hits at the festival, it wasn’t the only industry with tents.

Bret Gordon was at the table for the trio’s martial arts program. With a master level certification in Japanese and Korean martial arts, Gordon enjoys teaching others his passion.

“I’ve been doing martial arts since I was four years old,” Gordon said. “Finally I realized that I wanted to teach.”

Enthusiastic high school students also gathered at the booths, representing REACH (Recognizing and Experiencing Asian Cultural Heritage), an organization aiming to raise funds for the upcoming GWN International Dragon Boat Festival in mid-October.

Colin Poon, a freshman at Apopka High School, led the fundraiser for REACH by selling items such as jewelry and Asian snacks.

“We’re all in high school, but we come from a lot of different high schools in Orange and Seminole counties,” Poon said. “So it’s really a group effort.”

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In the end, the organizers of the Asian Cultural Festival said they were satisfied with a job well done.

“The turnout exceeded our expectations,” Ho said. “The ballroom was always packed with people standing or sitting on the floor watching performances.”

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Darcy J. Skinner