By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
This lunar New Year, the year of the water dragon, took place on Monday.
However, the 31st annual Tet Festival, the Vietnamese celebration of the New Year, will take place this weekend and is bringing with it a new attraction not seen before outside of Vietnam.
“This year we have a 50 by 50 foot chess board with live people acting as the chess pieces,” said Victor Nguyen Lieu, festival chairperson, “each person has been trained in martial arts to actually ‘battle’ the other ‘pieces’ during a real chess game. If you and I were playing chess, we could have a piece move over spaces and then the ‘piece’ would perform a battle with another piece.”
This year is the year of the Water Dragon, said to be an extremely prosperous year. Lunar years are associated with specific animals and the year of such animals is thought to have particular characteristics; such as creativity and confidence for those born in dragon years.
There will be a 30-foot tall paper mache dragon at the festival entrance as well as 12 carved dragons in the festival gates.
The festival, put on each year by the Union of Vietnamese Students Association’s is in Garden Grove Park, at 9301 Westminster Ave, starts at 3 p.m. on Friday, runs to 10 p.m., starts at 10 a.m. Saturday and ends at 10 p.m. and starts at 10 a.m. Sunday and ends at 9 p.m.
Around 700 high school, college and recently graduated college students volunteered this year to put on the festival working around the clock for the last week to get everything together.
“This past week alone the staff have been pulling all-nighters,” said Lieu, “The whole week was all nighters for many of our volunteers. Last night was the first night of good, full sleep I’ve had in a month.”
According to Lieu, his favorite childhood memory of celebrating tet was having his parents and grandparents take him to the festival.
“It’s really come full circle for me,” said Lieu, “To have those great memories as a child and then grow up and chair the event.”
The festival has a large focus on maintaining and preserving cultural traditions. However, some portions of the festival are being adapted to the younger crowds.
Lieu said that the biggest change this year was that the entertainment scheduled is a little more mainstream for the younger groups with Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese artists and well as local DJ’s with electronic music in the evenings.
There will also be food trucks with popular, non-Vietnamese fare such as Cajun style crawfish, gourmet hamburgers, specialty ice cream and fancy hot dogs.
However, the annual Miss Vietnam of Southern California pageant, a cultural and community involvement pageant for young women will be staying just the same on Friday night at 5 p.m.
The festival also has rides, many food vendors, plenty of entertainment and cultural displays. It is open to adults and children, with adult admission being $5, children shorter than 4 foot tall get in for $4 and infants have no admission price.