Arizona Asian American Association Festival

A variety of food, entertainment and wares can be savored at the Arizona Asian festival next weekend in Scottsdale.

The Arizona Asian Festival will once again bring an assortment of cultures to Scottsdale, where Arizonans can experience the customs and foods of a variety of cultures.

Now in its 24th year, the two-day event by the Arizona Asian American Association will run 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, and Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, 3939 N. 75th Street. An opening ceremony is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission and parking are free.

Nineteen cultures will participate over the weekend, representing areas that include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Pacific Islands, Pakistan, Palestine, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. 

And there will be a host of food vendors serving Burmese, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Lao and Persian cuisine.

Much of the festival’s entertainment will be based around the World Stage and the Cultural Stage.

“The World Stage is basically our main stage, and that’s the one near the water fountain,” festival spokeswoman Mai Le said. “That’s where we host the opening ceremony, the ending ceremony and the highlight of the program, the International Culture Fashion Show.”

 “The Culture Stage is actually near the Avenue of Cultures and where the food court is,” she continued. “It’s a smaller one. And every year we select one culture to be the highlight culture.”

The Avenue of Cultures also features informative booths from the various cultures. 

Every year, the festival picks a different word as a theme and translates it to each culture’s language. This year’s theme is “enchantment.”

Two years ago, the festival’s producers put the spotlight on Vietnam and last year they focused on Thailand. This year the majority of the entertainment will evoke Persian culture. 

The performances are “dynamic,” Le added, with other cultures still represented, and the majority involving dance, singing or martial arts.

A highlight of the festival, however, is its International Culture Fashion Show, which will showcase more than 150 models from various cultures at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s considered a highlight, because everybody loves to go watch the fashion show to see the beautiful and colorful outfits and learn about the cultures from each region, from each area,” Le explains.

Attire will be “traditional,” she says. 

“You will see the colorful and the unique and the custom and the traditional garments that they designed for each culture, and you also will see some similarities from culture to culture,” she explained. 

Elsewhere, a Chinese tea garden will offer demonstrations of the formal ceremonies and traditions that go hand in hand with tea drinking, as well as provide information about and access to the teas, Le said.

“It’s a way to learn about the culture, how before you drink the tea you have to show the respect to the earth and respect to nature,” she said.

In between activities and all throughout the weekend, attendees can roam the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. There will be plenty of artisans comprising a marketplace, as well as booths for civic engagement, health screenings and veterans.

Festivalgoers can pick up a passport at the information booth, visit and learn from each booth and receive prizes, Le said, adding the idea is “to give the children the opportunity to interact with other cultures, to learn about other cultures.”

But while the event as a whole is appropriate for the whole family, kids will also have a Children’s Wonderland. 

In the lead-up to the festival every year, the Arizona Asian American Association runs its Kids Art Expo, a contest where children submit artwork to represent various cultures.

 It is this youngster-friendly “wonderland” where the art will be displayed, Le said. There will also be activities like origami.

Festival organizers expect the event to be bigger than any of the 23 previous years. With more than 15,000 attendees last year, the Arizona Asian American Association has set a goal of more than 25,000 visitors for this year.

“The event is growing bigger and bigger,” Le said. “We have more participants each year, from the performances, from the culture participants and then the culinary booths and activities.”

But Le emphasized the Arizona Asian Festival attracts more than just those familiar with the customs of its various cultures and that general audiences from a host of different races and backgrounds also attend.

IF YOU GO

What: Arizona Asian Festival

Where: Scottsdale Civic Center Mall,

3939 N. 75th Street, Scottsdale.

Cost: Free.

Information: aaaa-az.org