By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Street Festival

The Cambodians threw a party yesterday, the 5th Annual White Center Cambodian New Year Street Festival. I’m not Cambodian, but I felt welcome.

It was a small event for a street festival--only one block--but the fairgoers more than made up with enthusiasm for any lack in size. I only spent a few hours there late in the afternoon, but the party was an all-day affair from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and included music, dance, contests and food.

I made it to the festival in time to see the banana-eating contest, just the very end of the male round but early enough to cheer for all of the female contestants. The audience was whooping it up when I arrived; they clearly thought this was hilarious entertainment.

The stage was backed by a large painting of Ankgor Wat in shades of purple, pink and orange with a banner of blue and red stripes behind the painting. Together, the two made a creative facsimile of the Cambodian flag, the only flag that incorporates a building in its design. I got that bit of information from the Cambodian Cultural Museum and Killing Fields Memorial site. I vaguely knew there was a Cambodian museum in White Center, but I’ve never been there even though I’ve lived in this community for 17 years. Shame on me. I will definitely visit the museum and memorial soon.

Next came three rounds of hacky sack competition to see who could keep the footbag in the air with the greatest number of consecutive kicks. Then the winners of each round competed against each other. That worked great for one little boy who survived the elimination round with only 5 kicks because everyone in his group was a dud. I sort of lost track, but I think the grand champion, who received an elaborate trophy, won with around 50 kicks, a combined score from the elimination and final rounds.

The MC for both events, banana eating and hacky sack, was great. He explained rules and kept up a running commentary in both the Cambodian language, Khmer, and English. When he was counting the hacky sack kicks, though, he mostly used the Cambodian language. I ought to know how to count in Khmer by now, but I can’t remember beyond "one," phonetically something like "moo-uhy."

The entertainment for the last hour or so I spent at the festival was music. The MC pushed a very large pink pig--for 2007, the year of the pig--out onto the pavement to preside over the dance floor. A lovely dancer invited my husband and me to join in, but we declined, not having the flexible wrists and fingers required for the elaborate hand movements. A couple of different bands and several singers performed--all very interesting but way too loud for my middle-aged ears.

To put some distance between me and the musicians, I checked out the vendors and decided to sample papaya salad, something I’ve wanted to try ever since I saw "The Scent of Green Papaya." It was delicious: long shreds of green papaya mixed with tomatoes, peanuts and a hot and spicy dressing; however, there was a mystery ingredient--crab leg shells. No crab that I could detect, just bits of shell and one small leg with no crab in it. I don’t know if the shell was there to provide flavor for the dressing similar to the way you can boil shrimp shells to enrich seafood stock or if I was just unlucky to get only shell and no crab. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed the salad in spite of having to pick through it carefully to avoid crunching down on rock-hard shell fragments.

It was really a great festival. I had more fun than I have at lots of larger, more elaborate street fairs. I’m already looking forward to the 6th Annual White Center Cambodian New Year Street Festival. Maybe it will be 2 blocks long next year.

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At 3:53 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I love reading your web site, It is so interesting that I feel as if my eyes are seeing what you are writing about. Could that be because you are such a good writer.Allison is so lucky to have you as her grandparent. Her love for books will grow from you I am positive. Love to you both..Carolyn

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Linda Wallace said...

Thank you for the compliment. We are both lucky to have Allison as a grandchild. She is special; you can see it on her face. She just radiates personality. I do hope she'll be a reader. I have a basement full of children's books.


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