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Recent crackdowns at Eden Center and Vietnamese-owned spas haven’t been a good look for local Vietnamese-owned businesses. The inaugural VietFest, taking place Saturday at George Mason University, could change that.
Singer Anh Minh, who’s performed on the music variety show Paris by Night, is scheduled to headline the daylong festival, which is a celebration of Vietnamese arts, food, and fashion as well as music. But it’s also designed to appeal to a larger audience, to help boost appreciation of local Vietnamese culture and commerce. “A few incidences here and there can bring negative looks…about the Vietnamese community,” says events director Duke Nguyen. “So by making this event happen, we hope that we bring something good to the community.”
A Pho-eating competition in the middle of the day will feature Ian “The Invader” Hickman, a competitive eater who moved to northern Virginia from Kentucky in 2005, and had his first bowl of Pho two or three years ago at Pho Sate in Falls Church, Va. After serving as an advisor at last week’s Pho-eating competition’s test rounds, Hickman was most impressed by a 12-year-old Vietnamese girl. “She was a machine,” says Hickman. “This little girl was owning the contest.”
The schedule also includes dance performances, martial arts, oodles of cuisine from Vietnam’s three regions, and a Miss VietFest pageant with guest Miss D.C. 2011 in the judge’s seat. The event’s centerpiece is a 100-foot-long art and history wall composed of paintings of events throughout Vietnam’s history, like the Chinese and French takeovers before the Vietnam War.
Although the Washington-metro region has 59,000 Vietnamese, ranking fifth behind Los Angeles, San Jose, Houston, and Dallas, in this area, most celebrations are only held during the Vietnamese New Year, which falls on the Lunar New Year, or the Mid-Autumn Festival. “We wanted to do a paradigm shift,” says Daniel Albert, president of the National Organization of Vietnamese American Leaders, who’s producing the event. “It has traditionally been events that only cater to the Viet community. We wanted to cater to the greater community to showcase our culture.”
Vietfest 2012 takes place Saturday at George Mason University, Lot K. $5-$7.