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Sunday, June 16, 2024

A colorful display of entrepreneurship, talent and community: Gainesville’s first annual Asian festival

Students, young entrepreneurs and local residents gather to celebrate Asian culture

Bo Diddley Plaza pictured on Sunday, May 19, 2024.
Bo Diddley Plaza pictured on Sunday, May 19, 2024.

With Japanese martial arts demonstrations and musical performances, authentic Asian cuisine and local vendors, UF students and Alachua County residents alike gathered at Bo Diddley Plaza May 18 to commemorate the City of Gainesville’s first annual Asian festival.

The festival, which started at 10 a.m., began with Mayor Harvey Ward offering an official proclamation before a crowd eager for a lively, colorful afternoon. Among the dozens of people in attendance were student organizations such as the UF Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Miss Vietnam FL, Genesis Dance Crew and Lulu’s Gelato. 

The City of Gainesville’s event coordinator, Lili Tzou, said the festival was integral to celebrating Asian culture within the city.

“I think it’s really important to celebrate our diverse communities here in Gainesville, especially during the month of May, which is AAPI Heritage Month,” Tzou said.

She expressed how critical it was to bring “an Asian festival of this caliber” to the city.

“As an Asian person, I think we’re working towards something really great,” she said.

Leticia Zheng, the president of the UF Chinese Students and Scholars Association (UFCSSA), said the club canceled its general meeting in order to participate in the event, due to the impact it could bring.

“Our main purpose is… to give people a chance to learn about Chinese culture,” she said. 

Taylor Lee, the UFCSSA networking director, said the event was a great chance to expand their club.

“We value every opportunity we can take to spread our awareness, especially during this month,” Lee said.

There was a profound appreciation of the event among participating vendors amid Florida’s growing Asian community. 

Mary Pham is a 20-year-old Vietnamese American small business owner from Jacksonville who sells various Asian and K-Pop-inspired drawings, jewelry, crafts and stickers.

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“I feel like slowly everywhere has been growing,” Pham said. “I feel like our community has grown much bigger, which I'm very happy about because then we can have a voice of who we are and spreading our culture.” 

Sydney Lewis, a Jacksonville-based business owner who runs Love & Light Candle Co. along with her partner Michael Lin, believes their unique Korean-inspired candle design suits their business mission of bringing “a piece of Asian culture to the Sunshine State.”

“I get a lot of my inspiration from Korean studios in Korea… It's really cool that I could spread that culture here,” Lewis said.

Contact Carlos Alemany at Follow him on X @clos_alemany

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Carlos Alemany

Carlos Alemany is a fourth year pre-law Political Science major and reporter for The Avenue. When he’s not writing an article for the Avenue, you may catch him thrifting or sketching in Gainesville.

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