Isle Vietnamese hail Year of Tiger
• Photo gallery: Tet Nguyen Dan
By John Windrow
Advertiser Staff Writer
The mighty jungle cat made a gentle debut yesterday at the Vietnamese New Year Festival at Kapi'olani Park.
While the Royal Hawaiian Band played love songs, children chased each other and their elders relaxed in the cool shade before the bandstand as Honolulu welcomed the Year of the Tiger.
Tong Ma, president of the Free Vietnam Organization In Honolulu, a social and benevolent association that assists the Honolulu Vietnamese community, said he expected 4,000 people to attend the event during the course of the day.
Ma, a McCully locksmith, estimated that Honolulu's Vietnamese community numbers about 11,000 people. His group helps newcomers with interpreters, acquiring social services and getting settled in Hawai'i.
The festival offered music, dancing, acrobats, inflatable amusements for children and all manner of culinary delights — from crab soup, to barbecue, to egg rolls, to coconut tapioca to corn on the cob, to iced coffee.
Bob and Brenda Witt escaped the winter back home in Sullivan, Mo., and ended up enjoying the festival at Kapi'olani Park.
"We've come to Hawai'i for winter every year for the last eight years," said Bob Witt, a retired engineer. Bob (trumpet) and Brenda (sax) are both members of the Sullivan Brass Band and huge fans of the Royal Hawaiian Band.
"You can't beat Hawai'i for food, festivals and music," Bob said. "Not to mention weather.
"They've got 5 inches of snow at home."
Hawai'i Pacific University's coed cheer team streamed onto the lawn shooting somersaults and handsprings and chanting "HPU happy New Year to you."
Other entertainment included Brazilian capoeira dancing; a dragon dance; the Marine Corps band; as well as Tahitian, Israeli and ballroom dance groups.
Uyen Huynh, 21, an exchange student from Vietnam, cruised the food booths with two aunties and her 4-year-old cousin, Victoria.
Huynh lives in Mililani Mauka and attends Leeward Community College where she is working on a liberal arts associate degree. She hopes to study business at the University of Hawai'i.
"I love it in Hawai'i," she said, as she tied a yellow balloon onto Victoria's wrist. "The weather and the people, they are so friendly."
Huynh looked around at the crowd and said, "Everything's good."
Savanna Sibley, a member of the HPU cheer team and a graduate student in communication, said it was a treat to perform yesterday.
"It's not something most people would get to do," she said. "But here in Hawai'i you get to go to the Vietnamese New Year's festival."