What promises to be the largest and most important cultural festival of Lao Americans outside the country of Laos will be held on Saturday, April 11, 2009 at the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. This 2009 festival is expected to draw more than 30,000 people.
There will also be an Evening of Cultural Reception at the prestigious Green Room of the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center from 7:00 PM – 10:30 PM.
The Opening Reception to commemorate our passage to America will take place on Friday, April 10, 2009 from 3-6 PM at Marin Museum of Contemporary Art at Hamilton Field, a historic landmark to thousands of Southeast Asia refugees who came through the Hamilton Army Air Field in Novato, California before transitioning to other parts of the country, making Hamilton Field a Refugee Transit Center.
The International Lao New Year Festival (ILNYF) 2009, hosted by three nationally recognized non-profit organizations, the Laotian American National Alliance (LANA), Lao Heritage Foundation (LHF) and Center for Lao Studies (CLS), “is an opportunity to unite the people from Laos worldwide to celebrate pride in our ancestral heritage, to showcase the best of Lao arts and cultures through collaboration, and to educate the general public about the plight of Lao American experience in the United States during the past 30 years,” explained Sourichanh (Sirch) Chanthyasack, ILNYF Chair and President of the Laotian American National Alliance (LANA).
“The first of its kind, this inaugural year’s festival provides an opportunity for the overseas Lao community to promote a deeper understanding of our traditions, and to showcase the multi ethnic cultural heritage of the people from Laos,” said Pom Outama Khampradith of the Lao Heritage Foundation (LHF), Pacific Northwest Chapter. “It also represents the coming together of an emerging Lao American community to celebrate an ancestral heritage and to allow us to open our world to a broader general audience.”
“The Lao people celebrate their New Year, Pii May (pronounced Pii-My) or Kut Songkaan according to the ancient Hindu calendar, which falls around April 13th, 14th, or 15th in the Gregorian calendar. The celebration is considered to be the most important and biggest traditional festival in the country which coincides with the end of the dry season and the start of the monsoon season. It is seen as a day of rebirth and purification,” said Dr. Vinya Sysamouth, Executive Director of Center for Lao Studies (CLS).
The first International Lao New Year Festival will feature Lao American cultural exhibits and pavilions showcasing heritage, Kato Lao sport, live concert, music and cultural performances, handicrafts and cuisine. The highlight of the festival also includes the special film screening of Nerakhoon (The Betrayal) co-directed by Thavisouk Phrasavath and Ellen Kuras, 2009 Academy Award® Nominee for Best Documentary Feature and 2009 Independent Spirit Award Nominee for Best Documentary.