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‘It’s like Christmas’: food, dancing and tradition come to Tacoma Dome, and it’s free

Learn why the Lunar New Year is so important to the Asian community at the Tacoma Dome on Saturday, Feb. 8.

This year hosted by the Vietnamese community, the annual Lunar New Year celebration brings together more than a dozen Asian groups under one roof. The Asia Pacific Cultural Center started the event in 1999.

Come hungry to get Filipino egg rolls from Puyallup’s Lumpia Love, ohana platters from Woodinville’s Hapa Food Company, and Hawaiian barbeque from Federal Way’s Pac Island Grill. There also will be Chinese, Indonesian, Korean and Vietnamese food vendors.

Dozens more vendors will sell traditional arts and crafts, while performers from each community will showcase their culture’s music and dance on the main stage. A second stage will feature demonstrations of martial arts, jiu-jitsu, tai chi and more.

“Culture is through custom,” said Tuyet Nguyen, an APCC board member and the lead organizer of this year’s Vietnamese program.

As the host country, the Vietnamese troupe will perform from noon to 2 p.m., including a retrospective on áo dài, the long silk dress emblematic of national pride, as well as grace and modesty. Tacoma Public Schools’ director Minh Anh Hodge will emcee this presentation. Other groups perform every 20 minutes from 2 p.m to 6 p.m.


Nguyen joined the APCC 22 years ago and remains an active member. In fact, it was the Vietnamese who spearheaded this Lunar New Year party in Tacoma, she told The News Tribune.

The inaugural event at the Tacoma Dome attracted about 7,000 people, she said, but “every year it’s just better and better.” In 2000, they invited other Asian communities to participate.

This year, there will be 16 countries, according to APCC executive director Faaluaina Pritchard — from Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Cambodia to Guam, Hawaii, Samoa and Fiji.

State Sen. Joe Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, will give the keynote around 11 a.m., followed by a multicultural drum performance.

Other guest speakers include Tacoma mayor Victoria Woodards, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, and U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer (WA-6) and Adam Smith (WA-9). Senator Patty Murray will tune in through video feed.

They will discuss the APCC and its value locally and statewide, as well as the Asian communities’ “contributions to our economy and social justice,” said Pritchard, which encompasses the “importance of arts and culture.”

Importantly, she hopes the event helps bring together the younger generations of these distinct communities.

Nguyen, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, encourages people in her circle to attend the APCC event no matter the host country. For her, the new year event is especially relevant because the younger generation is very much American.

“Vietnamese families, they always try their best to educate the children regarding the culture and connecting them with the community, but if you don’t get them motivated — and you don’t see other communities with their culture … that’s important for them to see.”

It makes them proud, she said.

In Vietnam, families go door to door during the two weeks around the Lunar New Year, sharing gifts and catching up with relatives and friends. Here, people don’t have the time to travel great distances or just show up at somebody’s house.

“You have to make an appointment,” Nguyen laughed. “Unless parents take them to the temple or the church or the community center, they wouldn’t know what the new year looked like.

“It’s like Christmas!”

That’s why she joined the APCC before the first Lunar New Year celebration in 1999: “to extend other cultures to people and help communities to maintain their culture, and to motivate them with a big event like this. It’s very important not to exclude any group. Of course, you have your community, but if you want to have a big voice, you have to be together.”


Saturday, Feb. 8, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tacoma Dome, free admission and family friendly

Kristine Sherred joined The News Tribune in December 2019. She spent the past decade immersed in the culinary scene of Chicago and, for a time, covered the global chocolate and snacks industries. An avid home cook and beer/cocktail pro, she now explores all things edible and sippable throughout Pierce County. Reach her also at @kriscarasher on Twitter.