2018 Asian Festival Bigger Than Ever

Thailand Dancers of Knoxville, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

The organizers for the fifth annual Knoxville Asian Festival hoped and projected the festival might draw as many as 40,000 people to its expanded downtown footprint. This wasn’t simply a fantasy number. Last year the festival drew an estimated 30,000. If they missed 40,000, I’d be surprised. The new layout and the press of the crowd reminded me of the International Biscuit Festival. It was hot and it was crowded, even with the additional space.

Thailand Dancers of Knoxville, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Thailand Dancers of Knoxville, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Mayor Aoyama of Muroran City, Japan, Entertaining with Jazz Band at Bistro at the Bijou, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Our current festival entourage includes two children, ages nine and three, plus three or four adults, depending. We are limited by the fact that I can’t get downtown before 11:30 or so from the radio show. Of course, we have the ace-in-the-hole of living downtown enabling us to come and go from the heat and crowds.

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Lion Dance, Wah Lum, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Lion Dance, Wah Lum, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

We were actually kind of lucky enough to have started the night before at Bistro at the Bijou. No, it wasn’t an official event, but we landed there for a late dinner and some early jazz and were soon joined by Mayor Takeshi Aoyama of Knoxville’s sister city, Muroran, and his entourage. The night got fun with dancing and a performance with a set of wood sticks I cannot identify. In the words of Bill Murray, “I want to party with you!”

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Okinawa David and Merry, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Okinawa David and Merry, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Skip Tanaka, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

The reality of arriving at 11:30 is that we’re hungry or near-hungry, so we watched the Thailand Dancers of Knoxville before breaking up to forage for food. Finding food isn’t hard, with nearly thirty food vendors representing a pretty broad range of nationalities and Asian cultures. We loaded up on noodles, rice, chicken and fried confections and retreated to the house for lunch.

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

After lunch we watched the Lion Dance by Wah Lum before scattering for a while to pursue our various interests and to cater to our various tolerance levels for heat and crowds. One thing that struck me as I walked around is how much cross-pollination has happened between various Asian cultures and western culture.

Matauriza Taiko, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Matauriza Taiko, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Matauriza Taiko, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Western fashion and music has dramatically impacted Asia, which Asian pop-culture holds great fascination for a swath of American teens. To that end, witness the photograph of the American girls dressed as Anamae, an Okinawa-based blues band and a Japanese-American rocker. Even the government officials from Japan found their way to American Jazz.

Bonsai, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Bonsai, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Bonsai, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

As always, there were numerous activities for children of various ages and with various levels of interest in culture. I’ve never been able to convince Urban Girl to do the passports and take a serious turn at learning about the cultures, but she did pause to watch a full tea ceremony and she’s always about the henna – that perfect intersection of Asian and fashion – two of her big interests.

Japanese Tea Ceremony, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Japanese Tea Ceremony, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Japanese Tea Ceremony, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

I watched some of the Taiko drumming, but the crowds around the Market Square stage were paced all day, so I never got a great vantage there. We talked about the crowds and tried to brain-storm solutions for a festival that seems to be destined to be overwhelmed by its own popularity. The World’s Fair Park? Additional footprint downtown? Gay Street? Two days? All of those possibilities contain obstacles.

Indian Henna, Asian Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

In the end, this year, my favorite moments were the quiet ones: the tea ceremony and the bonsai trees. Like the festival that includes them, they are beautiful to see and to photograph. The images really tell the story, so I’ll let the ones here do the heavy lifting and leave it there until next year.

Comments

  1. Rose Johnson says

    I love the idea that they added children’s play area. Love everything about this event.

  2. Robert L Steiner says

    It was a great festival but would be nice if there was a bigger viewing area available for the entertainment. It was hard to get a good vantage point and it was hot when the sun came out. Hope you can get Matauriza Taiko back next year, they are unbelievable.

  3. Went last year. I totally loved it. Had a great time!

  4. Brenda Palmer says

    Loved the photos that captured the Asian Festival. Turnout shows Knoxville is both curious and festival ready. Thanks for the coverage.

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