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Asian Moon Festival brings meanings of 'pacific' together

By: JACKIE LOOHAUIS, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel June 13, 2002 Thursday

The term "pacific" has two different meanings, which come together at the 2002 Asian Moon Festival presented by Piggly Wiggly.

This year 13 distinct groups of people from the Pacific Ocean region and beyond have joined together to put on the festival: Asian Pacific Islanders, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Pakistani, Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese. The meeting is a peaceful -- pacific -- celebration of "diversity and similarity" designed to educate the public about cultures that are sometimes misunderstood in America, says Anna-Marie La, Asian Moon president.

"The whole purpose of the festival is to show what Asians are all about," says La. "So many people don't know about the cultures, and Asians seem mystical. We hope to educate the community about the Asian cultures."

Education at Asian Moon gets presented the fun way -- through food, music, dance and shopping. It all adds up to an eye-popping start to the lakefront ethnic festival season.

The details

When: 5 to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.Where: Maier Festival Park

How much: $6 adults; free for children under 12 free with adult

Five things you shouldn't miss

1. Grand opening. For the first time in two years, Asian Moon will hold an opening ceremony to thank visitors, sponsors and volunteers. And the thanks will come the traditional way, with Chinese/Vietnamese dragon and lion dancers weaving through the audience. The loudness of the drums is meant to scare away evil spirits, who might do something like bring rain on the festival. 5 p.m. Friday at the Potawatomi Pavilion.

2. Cranes for Peace. A new interactive project will let visitors take wing at Asian Moon. To foster a spirit of healing and peace, exhibitors, volunteers and visitors will fold and string thousands of paper cranes for healing and hope in the world. The cranes will be sent to a peace conference in Ireland this July, along with hundreds of peace flags painted at last year's festival. Cranes are age-old Asian symbols of blessings and longevity.

3. Lahing Kayumanggi. One of the top folkloric dance troupes in the world, Lahing Kayumanggi (Lah-hing Kah-you-mung-gie) will travel from the Philippines to perform at Asian Moon. The group brings its own musical instruments and props and performs daily at the festival.

4. Fashion shows. The Philippine culture has given the world a tradition of beautiful clothing -- for men and women. A fashion show will depict the history of the Barong Tagalog, the male Filipino shirt, which originated in Spanish times in the 1520s and underwent 10 changes and today costs as little as $25 and as much as $10,000. The show is the first of its type in the United States. A Philippine-made wedding dress ensemble caps the show. At 2 p.m. Sunday, a cultural fashion show will represent a number of Asian nationalities.

5. Fire dance with them. Milwaukee's own Hale O Malo Asian Pacific Island dance group heats things up with a special "Fire/Knife Dance" at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Potawatomi Pavilion. The performance spotlights guest Samoan dancer Pesi Magua.

Music

The festival features two headlining acts this year.

Oscar Lopez takes the Miller Stage at 9:30 p.m. Friday. Known for blending a variety of genres, the guitarist mixes native Latin grooves with elements of blues, jazz, flamenco, rock, rumba and other flavors.

Hiroshima, a national jazz-fusion combo, returns to Asian Moon at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Miller Stage. Formed in 1974, Hiroshima blends traditional Japanese music influences as well as Western jazz and rock.

Digit dance secrets revealed

Have you seen the Philippine dance where performers must hop not only to the beat, but to keep their toes from being crunched between colliding bamboo logs? The Lahing Kayumanggi troupe will do "show and tell" demonstrations of the Tinikling, the bamboo dance, throughout the festival grounds.

Food

Asian Moon's cuisine is renowned among fest-goers, and the tradition continues with the same vendors as last year. Restaurants include the Bangkok Orchard (Thai), Cuisine of India, Ichiban (Japanese), The King & I (Thai), Phan's Garden (Vietnamese), Philippine Cuisine and Toy's Chinatown Restaurant. Beyond sampling the international food at the restaurants, festival-goers may also see how Asian dishes are prepared at "Penzeys Flavors of Asia." Professional chefs as well as members of the local Asian community will share their secrets and hand out samples and recipe cards.

For the kids

Almira Astudillo Gilles is the Filipino-American author of the children's book "Willie Wins," about a Filipino boy who learns to honor his cultural heritage. She will read her book at the Children's Stage at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Stage also will offer a Taiwanese puppet show and demonstrations of Natya and Kalakriti, traditional Asian games. Young visitors can do "Make It and Take" crafts at the nearby playground.

Odds and ends

Visitors can pick and choose from the banquet of attractions at Asian Moon. The choices include:

Martial arts: The 2002 Wisconsin State Judo Championships will be held at the Martial Arts area in the Sports Court. To balance the martial arts, patrons also can take in a Tai-Chi lesson at the Wellness & Cultural Arts Village, which will offer demonstrations for those looking to extend their minds and bodies.

The Xilin Art Center cultural group transports audiences back to the ancient days of traditional Chinese opera and dance. The group, which imports its rainbow-colored costumes direct from China, performs at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Miller Stage.

Mary Mariko Ohno shares the heritage of Kabuki dance at the Potawatomi Pavilion at 3:30 and 5:45 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

The Kite Society of Wisconsin will hold a kite-flying demonstration that includes Asian kites at Urban Park just north of the festival grounds after 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

How to get in free (or cheap)

Walk Against Family Violence, Saturday. Free admission to Asian Moon Festival when you walk to raise funds for the Milwaukee Women's Center. Information: (800) 771-(9255).

-- Purchase Patrick Cudahy bacon in specially marked packages and receive a two-for-one coupon for Asian Moon admission, redeemable at the festival gate. Good all weekend.

-- Those with disabilities and seniors 60 and over with identification get free admission on Friday.

-- A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Press Card is good for free admission from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.