New Year rift felt by Hmong

FRESNO, Calif.

Organizers on both sides were unwilling to explain on camera what fueled this rift. But off camera some hinted that a disagreement over spending practices at past events led to this divide.

Most people we spoke to believe it is financial and stress the Hmong community needs to stay together as one. Every year thousands upon thousands of Hmong travel to the Fresno fairgrounds to celebrate their New Year.

"It's important to see that everybody's still out here and everybody's enjoying their New Year together," Fresno's Vue Yang said.

"It's part of our culture. You get to come out and see everybody again because it's only once a year," Xai Her from Fresno said.

In the late 70s the Hmong united around General Vang Pao who led thousands through a violent crack down by the Laotian government and eventually to a new life in America.

Every year during the traditional New Year's ceremony General Pao is honored by a large crowd. But this year the crowd was noticeable smaller.

That because for the first time in more than a decade a second new years ceremony is taking place simultaneously at the Fresno Regional Sports Complex.

"The real story I don't know. But we would like to have only one Hmong celebration here in Fresno," Ge Herr with the Hmong International New Year Foundation said.

The foundation which hosts the celebration that has taken place at the Fairgrounds for over 30 years.

Money raised by this non profit is donated to scholastic scholarships and awards and cultural preservation projects.

The last time the celebration was split in two was in 1998 when several organizers had a different vision for the money raised... However, after the division large financial debt was incurred by both sides forcing a truce.

Some believe history is repeating itself.

"When you have two then some people will go there and some will go here and then we end up in debt," Herr said.

United Hmong International is hosting the new New Year's party. "It's just something that the community wants to see. It's not something the leaders want to bring up," U.H.I. spokesperson Sara Thao said.

Thao said this celebration is a chance to try something different like blending trout fishing and sporting events with traditional dress and dance.

"It's not a competition between any of the two because if you really think about it we are one family. we are the hmong people," Thao said.

Attendance numbers were not available for both events on the day of. People we spoke to said they plan to go back and forth between the two locations.

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