AAA Asian Night Market 2022 Picture 1

On April 15, the Asian American Association hosted its annual Asian Night Market, a celebration of different Asian American and Pacific Islander countries and cultures. With food and activities, Kelly describes it as a small-scale version of what the Lotus in Bloom festival will look like.

A new festival has been created just in time for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. On May 7 in Rose Park, Lotus in Bloom will feature food, drinks, live entertainment and hands-on activities that “showcase a lot of different countries and a lot of different people that are represented in Columbia,” says Lydia Kelly, the social chair of MU's Asian American Association.

Kelly has helped organize the event with the staff of Rose Music Hall including venue director Mike Nolan, who she says came up with the initial idea. “We wanted to take a day to shine a spotlight on the local members of our AAPI communities,” Nolan says. “We want to do that all year round obviously but thought a one-day festival during AAPI Heritage Month would be really impactful.”

AAA Asian Night Market 2022 Picture 3

Lotus in Bloom is a festival to celebrate various cultures and countries during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The event will include live entertainment and hands-on activities including an origami station.

Nolan reached out to MU's Asian American Association to collaborate. “He wanted to make sure he was doing everything appropriately in a cultural sense because he's not Asian,” Kelly says. “He thought reaching out to us would be a good idea because there's a lot of people represented in Asian American Association.”

With the doors opening at noon and the show starting at 1 p.m. May 7, Lotus in Bloom will feature music from artists such as DJ Seoul Train, Tri-County Liquidators and Drona. There will also be a sake tasting, an origami station and local art vendors.

Tickets cost $10 each with half of the proceeds going toward City of Refuge, a local nonprofit that provides assistance to refugees Kelly says. It was important to both Nolan and Kelly that the money went back into the Columbia community, and City of Refuge helps many people and families that come from Asian countries. “When refugees come to Columbia, (City of Refuge) helps them get going on their feet,” Kelly says. City of Refuge provides them with the basic necessities to “help them making a living here.”

For Kelly, an important part of the Lotus in Bloom festival is helping people think about Asia beyond East Asia. Most Asian Americans that are represented in the media typically originate from East Asia, but there is a lack of Pacific Islander representation. “There's so many different countries, so many different cultures (in Asia),” she says. “It's going to be really nice for people to be able to experience that, and hopefully they will just gain a better appreciation for those cultures.”

Planning the festival has taken a lot of time, consideration and moving parts, Nolan says. Throughout the process, it's been a collaborative effort between Nolan and the Asian American Association to put this inclusive festival together, one that Nolan hopes to make an annual event. “(It) would be the best long-term outcome in my opinion,” he says.

Kelly says she hopes people get to know Asian American musicians, restaurants and artists in Columbia after attending the festival. “This is something that's never really been done before,” Kelly says. “It's a win-win for everybody.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled photographer Ethan Ahn's last name.

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