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May 5, 2013

Kicking off a new year

Southeastern Asian residents celebrate with soccer, fashion

LOGANSPORT — Logansport’s southeastern Asian community brought in their new year Saturday with a day of soccer and traditional food, music, dance and fashion.

Saturday marked the fifth consecutive year the Laotian Community Association of Logansport held the event to celebrate the heritages of the city’s Laotian, Burmese and Thai citizens.

Soe Aung, formerly of Myanmar, helped organize the soccer matches earlier on in the day. He said the southeastern Asian population has been growing in Logansport because of the available jobs at Tyson Foods, with many Laotians arriving about 10 years ago and more recently with people hailing from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

The event celebrated the new year as dictated by the Buddhist calendar, which this year fell on April 14. However, organizers wanted soccer to be a part of the day’s fellowship and pushed the festivities back in hopes of warmer weather.

The matches held at Logansport High School’s soccer field brought out more than 50 people, including members of Logansport’s Hispanic community.

“It’s about putting our differences aside and coming together as many,” said Mang Khai, who refereed the games.

Kyaw Kyaw, also formerly of Myanmar, praised the event for not only allowing those hailing from southeast Asia to celebrate the new year, but allowing them to connect with the community as well.

“America is a very diverse country,” he said. “All cultures can grow here and be a cross-cultural sharing. Everyone can learn something about everybody. Celebrating this new year, we can be closer to all cultures and be more attached to the local community and mix with local people.”

The majority of the soccer players appeared to be in their late teens or early twenties, an age group Tun Aye hopes will return to similar events to remember their heritage.

“In this country, all the younger people need to learn about their own culture and traditions,” he said.

Joy Shwe, of Thai descent, is one of the young people Aye spoke of. Shwe traveled from Fort Wayne with his friends to play soccer Saturday.

“We came to get together and play for fun, meet each other and make more friendships,” he said as he waited with his teammates to take the field.

Later in the evening, the festivities moved to a packed Cass County Memorial Home, where southeastern Asian food, music, dance and fashion were celebrated.

The aromas of home-cooked egg rolls, steamed vegetables, stir fry, pork salad and chicken wafted through the air as Mitta Pham, a Laotian rock band based in Rockford, Ill., played for the guests.

Later on, attendees representing the various clans of southeastern Asian countries donned traditional attire and put on a fashion show.

Before it all could begin however, the celebration was blessed with holy water. A woman holding a pitcher traversed the room along with a man, who dipped a flower in the water and sprinkled it on those in attendance, many of whom bowed their heads in return.

Ko Swe came to Logansport from Myanmar four years ago. He said in his home country, water is often used in the holiday as a symbol for cleansing oneself of the past.

“You can wash away your past and start a new year, a new time,” he said.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

 

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