A lesson in culture at expo
Posted Feb. 16, 2007

Last weekend at the Fairplex, the Asian American Expo celebrated its 26th annual event and the Asian Lunar New Year.

The expo attracts more visitors and vendors every year, with over 100,000 guests.

Visitors said it is not only the delicious food and elaborate shows that entertain patrons, but the many displays and products, as well as the sense of community felt by those who attend.

Maria Lu, from Alhambra, came with her husband to partake in the festivities.

“It’s just everything about the expo that brought us out here,” Lu said.

“Its just a place to spend time, I mean the atmosphere is great. There’s so much going on,” she added.

Lu said that the majority of attendees are of Asian descent but that the expo has really begun to attract a wider audience.

“Most of the people here are Chinese or Taiwanese, but there are a lot more different people coming,” she said.

The performances and food, as well as the contagious enthusiasm of the celebration may be what attracts such a variety of attendants.

Famous Asian-American singers, traditional Thai dancers, Sambala Brazilian dancing, martial arts masters and 76 other acts entertained guests over the two day festival.

Vendor Kevin Ruan sells his elaborate gifts at swap meets and stores in the Las Vegas area. He participated in the expo in 2005 and has returned for a second visit.

“We always sell a lot of the painted glass bottles and fans,” Ruan said.

“One of my friends got me into selling at the expo and I like it. I enjoy being able to sell to different customers,” he added.

Ruan and his business partner have named their enterprise China China Gifts. The booth has attracted a variety of people, each one “oohing” and “aahing” over a delicate painted fan or a beautiful sculpture.

The variety of items Ruan sells keeps his booth crowded with customers constantly admiring and asking about a colorful, elaborate souvenir. Ruan appreciates the business he receives and finds the diversity in guests an important aspect of the expo.

“I used to see only Asian people here before,” he said. “But now there are a lot of Latinos and other ethnicities. It’s great to see so many different people at the expo.”

Another vendor, Philip Chong, a 21-year-old from Hong Kong, said that the expo is a great way to make money and have a good time.

“I’m here with my best friend and his family, they come every year to sell.” Chong said. “It’s a family business and I like being with my friends and still making money.”

Chong’s booth, representing an Alhambra store, C.M.Z. Co., sold crystal sculptures and framed artwork.

Opposite Ruan’s booth, which was always busy with eager customers, Chong’s booth was quiet for a short period and then packed with guests looking for the perfect gift.

Chong smiles widely and answers each customer politely, helping them find their item. As he sits back in his chair after a throng of customers leave happy, he reflects on his experience at the expo, one that seems to have a common theme among guests and vendors.

“I like being able to make money, but it’s fun to be here,” Chong said. “There’s a lot to see and do. I would definitely come back again.”

The Asian American Expo is built on a sense of pride in one’s heritage and seeking to share that experience with others despite ethnic background. It is a colorful, refreshing experience that is enjoyed by both vendors and guests alike.

Lilia Cabello can be reached at lcabello@ulv.edu.

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