CINCINNATI — Asian Food Fest returns this October with the goal of creating a more diverse and delicious city through food and entertainment.
From Oct. 9-10, food, beverage and performances will offer a unique insight into some of the traditions of the various Asian cultures found in Greater Cincinnati. That includes Cambodia, China, Hawaii, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Launched in 2011, the festival has grown to one of the biggest in Cincinnati with more than 60,000 attending every year.
The event has a new location this year — along the new Court Street Plaza in the Central Business District. The area has a pedestrian-friendly layout, widened sidewalks and specific configurations for special events.
Beyond the three-dozen or so food vendors and musical performances, the festival will feature interactive and educational displays that aim to build cultural awareness.
"We want to make it known that we are present in Cincinnati and that we have a voice and a lot to share, including our food," said Lam Dang, an Asian Food Fest board member.
Dang said food is a great vehicle for teaching cultural awareness because it brings people to the table. While they eat, they talk to one another and hopefully learn something in the process.
"Food has always been something to bring people together and connect people of all races and cultures. If you want to get to know someone, you invite them over and you cook them a delicious meal," he said. "For Asian Food Fest, we want everyone to come to our home and try our delicious food and get to know us (Asians) better."
COVID-19 pandemic has been a year-long challenge for many of the bars and restaurants that will take part in Asian Food Fest. But the pandemic has had an even uglier impact on many Asians across the country who've experienced a rise in cultural insensitivity and racist attacks.
Yvonne Chew, owner of Tea ‘n’ Bowl in the Clifton Heights neighborhood, told the News Record back in April that her business lost out on $400 in revenue due to a series of fake orders. She said when she attempted to call back, she was met with profanity and racist comments.
As of June, more than 6,600 hate incidents targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) had been recorded nationwide since the start of the pandemic.
The wave of attacks has many in the AAPI community feeling uneasy about a return to normal. One in three Asian Americans surveyed back in April said they were fearful of being the target of a hate crime, according to Pew Research Center.
Promoters said through Asian Food Fest they hope to promote "unity and healing to bring our community together.”
"This year’s Asian Food Fest will be a show of support and celebration of the Cincinnati region’s Asian community,” said Cynthia Oxley, the event's director. “We’re eager to bring our neighbors and friends together to celebrate Asian culture, especially in a year in which so many hate crimes have been targeted at Asian Americans. Our Asian neighbors need to know they are supported, especially now.”
Oxley said some of the proceeds from the festival will go to the Asian American Cultural Association of Cincinnati, which aims to use cultural events to promote diversity and acceptance in the region. Funds will also be used for future Asian cultural events in Greater Cincinnati, she said.
Event dates and activities are subject to change and will follow state-mandated COVID-19 guidelines.
Visit asianfoodfest.org to learn more.