Wausau Pilot & Review

The annual Hmong Wausau Festival, which showcases traditional and modern Hmong life, culture and heritage kicks off on Saturday for a two-day event that is expected to draw thousands from in and around the state.

The event will be held at the People’s Sports Complex at 602 E. Kent Street on July 30 and 31, according to the Hmong American Center, Inc. , which organizes the event each year. The Hmong Wausau Festival 2022 will “consist of singing and dancing competitions, sports tournaments, food and merchandise vendors, fireworks, and other cultural and arts entertainment throughout the two-day weekend.”

When the festival started in 2017, organizers were expecting an attendance of 4,000 to 5,000.

“We ended that year with 7,000 attendees generating $1.03 million in economic impact dollars,” Yee Leng Xiong, event chair for the festival and executive director of the Hmong American Center, told Wausau Pilot & Review. “Fast forward four years, in 2021, we had 14,000 and generated over $3 million in economic impact.”

Xiong said the event is the fastest-growing Hmong festival in the country and the largest Southeast Asian festival in Central Wisconsin. In a press release issued previously, Xiong said the festival draws attendees from throughout the Midwest.

Among the state and local leaders slated to speak during the festival are Gov. Tony Evers, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, U.S. Congressman Tom Tiffany, state Senator Jerry Petrowski, Wis. Assemblywoman Francesca Hong and Wis. Assemblyman John Spiros; Ying Vang Pao from the Vang-Pao family, Marathon County Board Chair Kurt Gibbs and Wausau City Mayor Katie Rosenberg, among others.

Vang Pao was a major general in the Royal Lao Army and helped the CIA in the Vietnam War.

The Hmong Wausau Festival’s Facebook page highlights the attractions that include traditional and modern Hmong music, dance, and a variety of competitions, along with a night festival of food, vendors, and fireworks. A firework is scheduled for Saturday.

There is a magic show by magician James David. Another highlight is the dance competition and the winner will be decided by popular choice: the festival’s Facebook page is seeking votes for the dance teams. There will be more than 100 sports teams participating in events as well, including football, soccer and volleyball contests.

Festival organizers acknowledged the shortage of food vendors last year and have said this year’s food stalls have all been booked. Smoking and vaping on the festival ground will not be allowed.

For details of the festival, visit hmongwausaufestival.org.