You'd have to spend a lot of time and a lot of money to jet off and explore the countries of the Pacific Rim and Pacific Islands; to dine on authentic banh mi sandwiches in Vietnam, to party at a luau in the Hawaiian Islands, or watch the incredible skills of Samoan fire knife dancers.
For most of us, such an excursion is not in the realm of possibility, but thanks to the Asian, Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Day celebration this weekend in Spokane, locals can experience those far-flung cultures' right in our own backyard.
The event Saturday at Riverfront Park is organized by Spokane's United We Stand, a community-based organization founded in March 2020 with a mission of sharing history, traditions, culture and experiences of the ANHPI community.
"Spokane's ANHPI community, starting with the Chinese and the Japanese, have been here a very long time, starting in the 1880s," says Charity Doyl, the event's lead organizer.
"They helped build the city of Spokane, and we're always forgotten in the narrative when sharing about... the history of Spokane. So we're using this opportunity to remind the city that we've been here for a very long time, we're a part of this city, and we're a part of this community."
Spokane's United We Stand is partnering with the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture to create a historical exhibit for the event highlighting the contributions of Spokane's ANHPI community to the city. The exhibit includes photos of Spokane's Chinatown and Trent Alley, which, according to the website Spokane Historical, consisted of a plethora of Chinese and Japanese businesses from the late 1880s to mid-1900s.
The ANHPI Heritage Fest also hosts food trucks serving Laotian, Vietnamese, Chamorro, Hawaiian, Samoan and Filipino food. A luau starts at 5 pm, after hours of slow cooking.
"In the Pacific Islander culture, the luau starts when the pig is done," says Doyl. "This is a really hands-on opportunity to really learn about the Native Hawaiian and the Polynesian and the Pacific Islander culture. That is our focus for this event."
Doyl anticipates roughly 150 vendors and a variety of ANHPI visual artists and interactive cultural activities that attendees can participate in, as well as live music and dance performances throughout the day.
The Pavilion's Central Plaza is hosting a dizzying array of performances, including by guzheng player Ena Wang, Spokane Junior Symphony's Christopher Anderson, Ukestra Spokane, Northwest Hula and the Samoan Fire Knife Dancers.
There will also be sounds delivered by the Spokane Taiko Drummers, K-Pop from the Korean Language School, and dances from the Bon Odori Dancers and the Filipino American Northwest Association Dance Troupe, plus Bollywood performances from the Natanam Dance School.
"Our goal is to provide a free event where the entire community is invited to learn about our culture and our traditions, our food, and just learn about the other ANHPI residents who call this city home," says Doyl.
United We Stand is partnering with a few other local groups to remove financial barriers so that as many people as possible are able to attend.
"Spokane Quaranteam is also buying lunch for the first 500 attendees from our participating food trucks," says Doyl.
The ANHPI Heritage Day event is in May to coincide with the month's national declaration as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. United We Stand is also planning additional events in the future to celebrate more ANHPI cultures and traditions.
"For Lunar New Year, we focus on the cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year tradition, which are China, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines," says Doyl, noting next year's Lunar New Year happens Jan. 28, 2023.
This fall, the group is planning to host the Diwali Festival of Lights, which focuses on Central Asia.
Right now, though, the focus is on the Inland Northwest's ANHPI community and throwing a great party on Saturday.
"We just wanted the community to have an authentic event that really highlights this culture," she says. ♦
ANHPI Heritage Day • Sat, May 14 from 1-8 pm • Free; $15-$75 VIP seats (available via email to email@example.com) • Pavilion at Riverfront • 574 N. Howard St. • spokaneunitedwestand.org