Listen: Hmong festival

MPR’s Chris Roberts gets an education on the events, sports, products, and foods at the Minnesota Hmong Summer Festival held in St. Paul. The event looks to bring Hmong people from around the country together to celebrate their culture and community.


text | pdf |

[TRADITIONAL MUSIC] Most Hmong have relatives all over the country. And the two events that give them reason to travel long distances to see each other are the Hmong new year celebrations in California, in December and the summer festival in St. Paul.

The festival was started nine years ago by Lao Family Community president, Ying Vang, who expects more than 8,000 people this year. Vang says festival goers will come from Texas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

YING VANG: The Hmong is still all over the United States of America. So they just take the summer's time to visit each other. And some people, they do have cousins and relatives in Minnesota. Some, they don't, but when they heard that we're going to have some events, they just try to be here to join us.

CHRIS ROBERTS: The highlight of the festival is a soccer tournament that involves teams from all over the country. But there is also flag football, volleyball, and a game called kato, which is played in many Southeast Asian countries.



CHRIS ROBERTS: The players display amazing agility and leaping ability as they use only their feet and heads to volley a small bamboo ball over a low net. In the middle of Como Park's huge athletic field is a long row of concession stands and food tents. Nearly everyone carries an umbrella for protection from the sun. And you get the sense of two cultures mingling as the smells of barbecue and fish sauce are carried on the breeze.

Two 17-year-old girls from St. Paul, Tang Xiong and Bao Yang, agreed to describe their favorite foods. There was what they called, Tang Sung, a mixture of papaya, cabbage, peppers, and spices, the Hmong equivalent, they say, of sauerkraut. Then they lead me to another favorite dish which looks like a bright red and green caviar.

TANG XIONG: Yeah, it is flour, flour, and it's sweet. It's really sweet. There's a syrup that you just mix there, really plain. It tastes really plain. There's no taste to it, but when you add the syrup to it, it adds a sweetness to it.

BAO YANG: They're all white-- become white. And you boil it, and then you add food color to change the color to make it pretty.

CHRIS ROBERTS: They also point out what happens to be the only concession stand selling traditional clothing. They describe the long, brightly colored robes as Hmong funeral attire.

BAO YANG: It's like how Americans, when they pass away, they wear a suit and stuff like that. Well, for the Hmongs, when they pass away, they wear that outfit.

TANG XIONG: They either wear that, or they wear the traditional Hmong clothing.


CHRIS ROBERTS: Another man, Lee Tua from Stockton, California sells videos depicting modern day life in Laos which he produced himself. He says they're designed for Hmong children.

LEE TUA: They're for the youngsters to remember our language and to remembers what their parents in the past have been done.

CHRIS ROBERTS: Organizers of the Minnesota Hmong Summer Festival say the event is intended to serve as a giant family reunion for Hmong scattered across the country and to reaffirm that the Hmong are in America to stay. 20-year-old Jerry Vang came all the way from Montana, and he plans to come again next year.

JERRY VANG: Oh, I think it's great here because I see a lot of people. Where I live now, a lot of Hmong people, so I was kind of shocked.

CHRIS ROBERTS: The festival continues tonight at the St. Paul Civic Center with music and awards for the soccer players and will end Saturday with a final series of soccer games at Como Park. This is Chris Roberts.

This Story Appears in the Following Collections

Views and opinions expressed in the content do not represent the opinions of APMG. APMG is not responsible for objectionable content and language represented on the site. Please use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report a piece of content. Thank you.

Transcriptions provided are machine generated, and while APMG makes the best effort for accuracy, mistakes will happen. Please excuse these errors and use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report an error. Thank you.

< path d="M23.5-64c0 0.1 0 0.1 0 0.2 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.3-0.1 0.4 -0.2 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.3 0 0 0 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.1 0 0.3 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.2 0.1 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.2 0 0.4-0.1 0.5-0.1 0.2 0 0.4 0 0.6-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.1-0.3 0.3-0.5 0.1-0.1 0.3 0 0.4-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.3-0.3 0.4-0.5 0-0.1 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1-0.3 0-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.2 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.3 0-0.2 0-0.4-0.1-0.5 -0.4-0.7-1.2-0.9-2-0.8 -0.2 0-0.3 0.1-0.4 0.2 -0.2 0.1-0.1 0.2-0.3 0.2 -0.1 0-0.2 0.1-0.2 0.2C23.5-64 23.5-64.1 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64"/>