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Commemorating 20 years of CelebrAsian

The festival, hosted by the Iowa Asian Alliance, is the largest Asian-American event in Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A Des Moines tradition capped off Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage month in spectacular fashion. From live music to fresh food served right off the grill, CelebrAsian has been a Des Moines staple for decades.

"When you start something for the first time, it's very exciting. Sustainability is probably one of the most challenging things. The fact that we've been doing this 20 years speaks a lot about the community that comes together to put on this event," said Nu Huynh, Executive Director of the Iowa Asian Alliance, who organized the event.

Sandy Yang, who was working in the festival's Hmong Village, came to the very first CelebrAsian. After all those years, she says the magic still hasn't faded.

"It is awesome, because you know, you have so many different, diverse people coming through," Yang said.

One thing that has changed — the festival's size. There were a record 15 cultural villages at the event in 2023, letting crowds learn about Iowans from Laos, China, the Philippines and 12 other regions. Yang said that getting to share her history with visitors helps her keep it close for her own family.

"I'm proud of my Hmong culture. And I want my two daughters to, you know, be able to carry that forward because the Hmong culture, our population is very small here in Iowa," Yang said.

According to the most recent census data, Asians make up a little over 7% of Des Moines's population. That's more than doubled since 2000. And as that growth has continued, organizers are proud that CelebrAsian has endured the test of time and continues to highlight the diversity in our own backyard.

"This event is an opportunity for our communities to showcase who they are, their culture, their pride and heritage and show our contributions and have such a strong presence in our community," Huynh said.

Organizers say they're not planning on stopping at 20 years; plans are already in the works for the 2024 festival.

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