According to a story in yesterday’s Des Moines Register, there are 52,000 Asians living in Iowa. Today they came together to celebrate their culture.

Fourteen distinct sectors were represented at the 10th annual CelebrAsian, the largest Asian-American heritage festival in Iowa. The family-friendly celebration included food vendors, a cooking center, a martial arts village, continuous stage entertainment, and many goods for sale.

But the best part about the festival was the people watching. I don’t believe you would find a more diverse or interesting group of people at any other Iowa gathering. And everyone, young and old, seemed to be having a good time.

Specific cultures represented in tents surrounding the east campus of the Iowa State Capitol complex included Thai, Nepalese, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Lao, Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Hmong, Tai Dam, Korean, and Cambodian.

I attended the event with my daughter, Katie. We were tempted by food in most of the vendor booths but ended up dining mostly on Indian food: tandoori chicken for her, vegetables and rice for me, and spiced corn on the cob and cucumber salad for both of us.

Katie got a free henna tattoo and an Indian bindi on her forehead. I watched a little girl play with a pink balloon.

Another thing we both enjoyed was watching the takraw tournament. We thought the game looked like volleyball, only played with your feet. We especially liked the athleticism of some of the younger players. According to the Register, takraw is popular in southeast Asia and combines soccer and volleyball, “with players using their feet, knees, chests, and heads to volley a rattan ball back and forth over a net.”

CelebrAsian is sponsored by the Iowa Asian Alliance.

Oh, and did I forget to mention? Hello Kitty was there, too.


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