Cultural Understanding

By Greco, Jamie | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 29, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Cultural Understanding

Greco, Jamie, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)

Byline: Jamie Greco Daily Herald correspondent

Another dimension of Elgins diversity is about to be celebrated at the first Elgin Asian Festival at Festival Park.

The Asian Community Network, sponsored by the city of Elgin with the help of coordinator Kone Chansey, will put the many cultures that make up the Asian American community on an entertaining and educational display.

Although the Laotian community is prevalent in Elgin, a variety of Asian countries will be showcased at the festival, according to Chansey.

"The whole purpose of the event is to draw people from all nationalities of Asian background," he said. "Also to (bring in) non-Asians, to showcase the culture and the arts."

"We wanted this to be educational, to defer stereotypes," said Noy Saengpraseuth, who has organized the cultural arts portion of the festival. "Chinese is different from Japanese. Thai is different from Laos."

Some of the differences can be seen in the cultural dress that will be presented. Saengpraseuth expects visitors to be dazzled by the display of costumes that will be showcased as a fashion show.

"The participants are age 2 and up," she said. "Children will dress up in Chinese outfits. We have two Koreans and there will be some Cambodian and many Laotian outfits."

"Usually you dont get to see these costumes unless someone is getting married or (experiencing) some significant event in their lives. So for them to go on stage and display, it is amazing," Saengpraseuth said.

The intricate Thai and Laotian costumes are handmade in silk and made to fit each individual personally.

"It takes about 200-300 hours," explained Saengpraseuth. "To cut it to their size and fit it, its probably another hundred hours"

Many of the children participating in the fashion show will also perform traditional Laotian and modern dances during the festival.

Also on display will be museum quality Asian artifacts and artwork.

"Not the kind of thing you would see in a typical home," Saengpraseuth said.

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