Fresno Fairgrounds sit quiet with Hmong New Year event canceled

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno Fairgrounds have sat quietly this week.

Normally it's a bustling scene with music, food and dancing for the Hmong New Year.

The event had to be canceled due to restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

It hit the Hmong community hard because celebrations normally start in other cities in October and lead up to the Fresno event, which is the biggest in the country.

"We've never canceled or held off on Hmong New Year for the 45 years we've been here in the United States," says Fresno Center CEO Pao Yang.

Yang says the annual celebration helps pass along cultural traditions to the younger generation.

"We're keeping what is good, what is sacred to us and it is respecting our ancestors, respecting our parents," he said. "Understanding all of that makes us who we are."

The event draws more than 100,000 people to Fresno over seven days.

Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Chair Chong Yang says families visit the Valley from around the US and other countries.

"We have people that come from Laos, Thailand and even Vietnam who have waited for this time of year just to see their families and friends," he said.

Feelings of isolation, especially among the elderly, are common in many communities.

"This is the one time that they wait all year for and it's taken away without them really understanding what this virus is," Chong said.

Hmong families have been celebrating online instead of in-person.

"I have my Hmong Mien necklace here," Pao said. "We just take selfies and post them and say Happy Hmong New Year."

It's not the same, but members of the Hmong community just want next year's Fresno celebration to be the biggest ever.
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