A celebration of local Asian cultures

The 17th Annual Experience Asia Festival was held at Tom Brown Park after being held remotely in 2020. Photo Courtesy: Curtis Bataille

After hosting its first ever “Experience Asia Online” festival remotely in 2020, the Asian Coalition of Tallahassee proudly returned to an in-person format for the 17th Annual Experience Asia Festival on Saturday.

Previously hosted at downtown Tallahassee’s Lewis and Bloxham parks, the event was moved this year to the larger Tom Brown Park in order to accommodate the social distancing needs of an ever-growing crowd of attendees. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, more than 25,000 were expected to attend the event, which lasted from 10 a.m. through 5  p.m.

Launched by the ACT in 2005, Experience Asia has grown considerably, and is now the largest celebration of Asian culture in the North Florida region. The festival seeks to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture present throughout Asian and Asian Pacific cultures through a variety of performances, cuisines and more.

Following a rise in anti-Asian sentiment stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, a celebration of the diversity of Asian culture has never been timelier.

“It’s a small bird’s eye view into what Asia is like, from right here in Tallahassee,” said Aurora Hansen, education and outreach program director for the ACT. “It may be more subtle now, but there is still a lot of Asian hate going on. We want to make sure that we show that we are people too, and we have richness and diversity to our cultures as well.”

The festival featured two stages with performers from countries such as Japan, Taiwan, India, China and more representing their cultures and heritage through a variety of performances. The festival’s headlining act, the Matsuriza Taiko Drummers, acted as both the event’s opening and closing act as it graced the Dragon Stage led by renowned composer Takemasa Ishikura.

In addition to the performers, more than 70 vendors and booths were on hand offering a variety of Asian cuisines, jewelries, collectibles and more. According to Hansen, the ACT received inquiries from multiple vendors as late as the day before the event, who were welcome to participate thanks to the extensive size of Tom Brown Park — for an added fee.

As the first year back in-person and the biggest festival turnout yet, Experience Asia was able to provide some much-needed knowledge of Asian culture into the Tallahassee community.

For the local Asian community, it also served as a point of pride.

“Experience Asia is one of the most popular community events within the AASU every year,” said John Mijares, a member of FSU’s Asian American Student Union. “We were all really excited to get to attend the festival in-person again and to celebrate all of our different cultures.”