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Asian-American Festival in Port Washington draws hundreds

Breanna Vernet, 9, and Manya Goyal, 7, with

Breanna Vernet, 9, and Manya Goyal, 7, with others from Arya Dancing Group dance during the 10th annual Asian-American Festival at North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington on Saturday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The beating of chenda, a drum native to India; the strumming of koto, a Japanese string instrument; and the clash of cymbals keeping time for a traditional Chinese lion dance mingled in the air Saturday at North Hempstead Beach Park during the 10th Asian-American Festival.

The event drew hundreds of people who came to sample the food and learn about the cultures of China, India, Japan, Korea and Pakistan. At booths dotting the shore, they could participate in a Chinese tea ceremony, learn ikebana — the Japanese art of flower arranging — or take a yoga lesson.

Performances were staged throughout the afternoon at the Port Washington park, with participants demonstrating tae kwon do and dancing in glittering outfits to Bollywood songs. 

“I am so happy to celebrate all of the many different, rich, varied cultures that make up the Asian-American community here in the Town of North Hempstead,” town council member Veronica Lurvey said at the opening ceremony. “We are the richer for our diversity and the richer for sharing it with each other.”

Asians make up about 18 percent of the population in North Hempstead, according to U.S. census data for 2017. As the community continued to grow, leaders representing different Asian-American groups came together 10 years ago to organize the first festival, said Juleigh Chin, who helped stage this year’s event.   

“We wanted to bring awareness to the Asian community in the Town of North Hempstead,” Chin said. “There are a lot of us and we wanted to share our culture.”

Raju Haque, 39, of New Hyde Park came to the festival with his wife and two daughters.

“It’s great to see Asians together all in one place and to see representation for Korean, Japanese, Indian and other cultures,” said Haque, who was watching as his wife learned how to wear a sari.

At one booth, Aarti Haque was being dressed in a delicate pink sari as Prianka Kakkar explained to her how to create pleats with the fabric and tuck it into her waistband.

“When I first learned, there was no YouTube,” Kakkar joked to Haque. “I had to go through wedding albums to figure out how to do it.”

Kakkar, who also teaches yoga at the Asa’Mai Hindu temple in Hicksville, said she enjoys teaching about Indian customs and thinks it is important in bringing people together.

“The more we introduce people to our culture, the more we learn to tolerate each other and work together,” Kakkar said.

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