Not long after many people — both near and far — celebrated the Chinese new year and the beginning of the year of the dragon, hundreds turned out at Mercato this past weekend to participate in Asia Fest 2012, nibbling on exquisitely prepared Asian foods and watching traditional dances, all while supporting worthy causes of the Naples Asian Professionals Association (NAPA).
Rebecca Zung-Clough, president of the association, and a local attorney, greeted festival goers and thanked event sponsors for supporting their mission of raising scholarship funds and supporting local community projects.
“I think we’re having a record-breaking attendance today, and we had more than 5,000 people attend last year,” Zung-Clough said, while she directed visitors to various booths. Tents included elegantly prepared dinner specialties straight from Southwest Florida chef’s menus, along with local businesses offering demos and crafts, along with opportunities to learn more from organizations and business such as the Veterans Administration, Fifth Third Bank, Home Depot, Chinese Language Schools, and Educational Home Stay Programs offered by EF Tours, just to name a few of the
“The drums were definitely my kids’ favorites,” said Amy McMullen, who brought her daughters, Megan and Mariane, to participate in the relaxing day of demonstrations, music, culture, fabulous foods, and community spirit.
With perfected fluid movements of tai chi, Hiep Trinh began the day’s presentations as he demonstrated the ancient form of exercise with deep roots from China for the crowd, accompanied by sounds of a Japanese flute (also known as a shinobue), calmly played by
The duo was followed by many traditionally dressed dancers and drummers from many regions of the globe.
“We’re having fun, and the energy of the crowd is what keeps us dancing,” explained Kamille Janess, one of the dancers hailing from the Philippine Performing Arts Center in Tampa.
Some festival goers even practiced their Chinese language skills with staff from the Southwest Florida Chinese Language School, sponsored by the Florida Gulf Coast University Institute of Chinese Studies. Every Saturday, classes are offered at FGCU, to all ages wanting to improve existing writing and language speaking skills, or to begin the process of learning the fascinating language for business or travel, too.
“The foods are fantastic. We learned about the event from Judy Wright, the director of NAPA,” said Stan Lindsey of North Naples, as he sampled a colorful plate of sautéed chicken, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and Thai basal, between sips of aloe juice.
Youngsters at the event were intrigued by building various craft items from Home Depot, as they built projects with hammers and nails. John Kinder, of Home Depot, didn’t seem to mind when a young builder missed her mark and hit his thumb.
“I enjoy this, and we do these classes on Saturdays at our store for children,” he said.
Those who missed Asia Fest 2012 have another opportunity to partake in Asian cuisine and culture at Florida Gulf Coast University next month. The FGCU Asian Culture Club invites the community to participate in a special performance, speeches and food sampling in the university’s Student Ballroom, on March 29 from 8 to 10:30 p.m. For more information, call (239) 590-7729.