Cotanchobee Park will be filled with the sights, sounds and aromas of Asian culture Saturday, when it hosts Asia Fest 2013.
The family-friendly event includes art and crafts vendors, exhibitions and cultural demonstrations, music and dance performances, and a wide selection of delicious dishes to sample.
The festival also includes the 5th annual Miss Asia Fest pageant, with women from six countries – Cambodia, Korea, China, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan – competing for scholarship money.
You can get a peak at the competitors – and vote for your favorite – on Asia Fest 2013 Facebook page. The winner will receive the “fan favorite” award during the pageant.
Asia Fest, sponsored by the Asian-American Coalition of Florida, is part of Asian-Pacific Heritage Month. The festival reflects the diverse Asian-American population that calls Tampa Bay home, said Soka Im, the group’s executive director. This is the 30th anniversary of the event.
“(The event) seems to attract new people each year,” Im said. “And it’s not just local participation; we see visitors from Sarasota, Orlando, Lakeland, Bradenton and other surrounding areas. We’re not just one group that’s marketing to one country. Our organization is comprised of different (Asian) groups coming together and working as one to offer different forms of entertainment from different regions of Asia.”
There will be entertainment throughout the afternoon, including traditional folk dancing and modern interpretive dance; martial Arts, Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu demonstrations and a variety of local food vendors selling cuisine from India, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines and more. New to the event this year will be Indonesia and Nepal, Im said.
A retail area also will have arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry and other items available for purchase.
Im is encouraging visitors to come out and spend the day enjoying Asia Fest, and the 10th annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Races, which will feature dozens of competitors paddling colorful boats with dragon heads on the vessels' bows. Drummers aboard the boats keep their crewmates paddling in unison.
The races get under way at 8 a.m. Saturday on the waters of the Garrison Channel, on the downtown waterfront, with a heat running every 12 minutes until the winning team is selected.