Iowans Celebrate Asian Culture at Annual CelebrAsian Festival

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Iowa is home to many different Asian cultures, and this weekend an event that's become a Des Moines tradition aimed to celebrate the diversity at Western Gateway Park.

Dozens of food tents lined the streets allowing visitors to taste foods from around the world, but one group participating said the event is more about pride. Guests gathered downtown to taste authentic Asian cuisine, hear traditional music, and socialize under the sun at the annual CelebrAsian festival.

"It means we get to spend the day outside and meet new people and see old friends," said West Des Moines resident Bob Hughes.

"Different cultures that are here in the metro, there's a lot of different people with a lot of different backgrounds. So I think it's just really interesting to see everybody come together and kind of celebrate it together," said festival-goer Kathy Dally.

In addition to food and culture, the Iowa Asian Alliance, which organizes the festival, also sponsors two scholarships for students of Asian heritage.

Van Lam is a member of Khmer Krom, a Des Moines Cambodian group.

"Our goal and our mission is to build a meditation center here and an education center," he said.

Lam's organization represents nearly 200 people at the event, and he said being there means the world.

"We are proud of your Khmer people. We work in the sweat and volunteer and donate money. We are happy to represent our community here," he said.

The meditation and education center is expected to be a space for those of the Buddhist faith, but they plan to let the facilities be used by other social service organizations.

Next year's CelebrAsian event is already scheduled for Memorial Day weekend in 2019 at Western Gateway Park. This year's celebration runs through 10 PM on Saturday, with live performances taking place up until that time.