39th Annual Minnesota Hmong New Year A Success Through Inclusive Approach
By Eric Bestrom
Attendance tallies are still being tabulated as of this writing, but it looks as if the 39th Annual Minnesota Hmong New Year, held November 24-26, 2017 at RiverCentre in St. Paul, Minnesota, will top last year’s attendance by about 3,000, according to Mr. Peter Pha. Mr. Pha is Event Chair of the New Year Committee of the United Hmong Family, Inc., (UHF), which organized the event. 2016 attendance was about 34,000.
More than 500 VIP guests attended this year, compared to 200 last year.
Mr. Pha said that, in addition to more attendees overall, more politicians came to the New Year Celebration this year than last year. He named 28 in an email to me, but apologized, “There may be more I have forgotten to list to you.” Attendees in this category ranged from St. Paul Mayor Elect Melvin Carter III, to St. Paul Ward 1 Councilmember Dai Thao, to current Mayor Chris Coleman, to Minnesota State Representative of District 41B Mary Kunesh-Podein. There were legislative and executive elected officials, candidates for elected office, sheriffs and police chiefs from around the Metro area, greater Minnesota, and from as afield as California.
The success of this year’s event was the direct result of a very intentional policy of inclusiveness in its planning and marketing, asserted Mr. Pha, “We wanted to make sure the people who served on our committee, whose voices were heard in our planning process, and who were spotlighted in various roles were a more equal mix of women and men, younger and older people.” Instrumental to achieving these goals was the involvement of Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together, a Minnesota non-profit organization which focuses on developing, supporting and training Hmong women.
Dr. Pa Der Yang, Hnub Tshiab Board Member and St. Catherine University Professor enacted the ribbon-cutting ceremony and delivered the keynote address at the Minnesota Hmong New Year. This was the first time in all of the 39 years of the event that a woman has performed this historic role. In her speech, given in both Hmong and English, Dr. Yang thanked UHF for inviting her, acknowledged the Hnub Tshiab members and Hmong women leaders flanking her on the stage and in the audience, and challenged everyone to embrace Hmong women leaders, to not fear change, to acknowledge “we stand on the shoulders of our men” and “that it is a NEW DAY for our Hmong American Community!”
In other Hmong New Year news, these were the talent contest winners:
Dance Group A (Ages 5-11) – 1st Place: Nkauj Hmoob Npliag Txuj, 2nd Place: Starlites, 3rd Place: Silver Skies.
Dance Group B (Ages 12-18) – 1st Place: Nkauj Ntxuam Dej, 2nd Place: Nkauj Hmoob Tshiab, 3rd Place: Hmong Heroes
Best Costume (Dance): Nkauj Hmoob Npliag Txuj
Pageant Contest: 1st Place: Mai See Yang, 2nd Place: Khou Yang, 3rd Place: Chia Ny Vue