Five years ago, the first Knox Asian festival was barely noticed. Just a small, quiet event in Krutch Park extension, it was a modest beginning with one small stage and maybe a few hundred people drifting through. Each year since has brought a larger footprint and bigger crowds. The space allocated to the festival simply could not keep up. The goal for last year was 40,000 people and judging from the fact there was no budging through the crowd, it seemed they likely got it.
With the large crowds came problems. Food vendors sometimes ran out of food and the stage was difficult to see. The stage issue was unfortunate because the international entertainment was amazing and truly deserved a large, appreciative audience. And this year, that’s exactly what they will get.
The festival has grown its way to the World’s Fair Park and will have its largest footprint ever. With the move, the amphitheater becomes one location for the entertainers and audiences will be able to see the shows better, have a place to sit, and have a shade in which to sit. The first is a big improvement, the other two are life savers. Some years have been so hot that a little shade would go a long way. The entertainment will feature professional performers including Taiko drummers from Disney World, Chinese acrobatics and much more.
The festival has also grown its way into a multi-day, multi-cultural event. The first event will be an Asian Business Seminar held Friday, August 23rd, at 1:00 p.m. at the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce featuring Masami Izumida Tyson, Global Director of FDI and Trade for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
Friday brings the first Asian Film Festival to the city. It’s free, but registration is requested. Six films will be shown at the East Tennessee History Center starting at 10:00 a.m. and running through about 4:00 p.m. Covering topics as wide-ranging as food and immigration, the day culminates with the showing of The Grace Lee Project: Deconstructing an Asian-American Stereotype. The feature-length documentary was featured at the SXSW Film Festival and nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Sunday’s festival officially starts at 11:00 a.m., but you’ll want to be there early for the parade, which lines up by the fountains and marches to the amphitheater, beginning at 10:40. It’s easily one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever catch in Knoxville. Food and booths are open until 6:00 PM, but entertainment continues to 8:00 p.m. with a Kimono show and much more.
There is a different organization to the festival this year. Sections are divided by country, with the food and the booths integrated to give specific cultures and countries a home. The passport activity is back and stamps will be given at the booths. The new arrangement, similar to that in Epcot at Disneyworld, should prevent the logjam at the food booths.
You’ll also find a Ping Pongathon (registration requested), an airline ticket giveaway featuring a trip to Japan, a children’s area, and tastings featuring wine, sake and beer. To start building your appetite, check the list of food vendors. For complete details, check out the website. For complete fun and cultural education, start on Friday, but definitely do not miss the event on Sunday.