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UVSA Tet Festival Returns to Costa Mesa

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Katelyn Phan, 2022 Miss Vietnam of Southern California First Princess, takes her last walk as part of the royal court during the 2023 UVSA Tết Festival on Jan 28, 2023. Phan said she’s looking forward to investing more time in supporting her community as well as new beginnings in her life. “This is my year.” said Phan. Credit: OMAR SANCHEZ, Voice of OC

It’s been a tense and grief-filled week for Asian American communities living in California because of recent mass shootings, but that tension could not really be felt at the 41st annual UVSA Tet Festival, held at the OC Fair & Event Center this past weekend, Jan. 27-29. UVSA is the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California, a nonprofit that has branches at colleges and high schools across the Southland.

Thousands of people gathered at the OC Fairgrounds to celebrate the Year of the Cat, as predicated by the Vietnamese zodiac. In other Asian cultures, particularly Chinese and Korean, it’s the Year of the Rabbit.

Many attendees dressed in ao dai, the traditional and colorful Vietnamese garment often made of silk chiffon fabrics. (For men, they are sometimes called ao gam.) Folks lined up in unusually long lines outside in the parking lot and at the entrance of the festival, since organizers implemented additional security measures this year, including metal detectors, bag checks, security and police presence, and a ban on any kind of weapons, real or fake.

“Immediately after what had happened (last) Saturday and that following Monday, UVSA decided to take immediate measures to make sure we ensure the safety of all of our staff and attendees,” said Emmerick Doan, this year’s chair of the festival.

“So we worked closely with OC Fair & Event Center, along with the O.C. Sheriff’s Department, to make sure we have law enforcement here, and to keep everyone safe.”

While some people were surprised at the long lines and wait time to enter, most attendees accepted them as part of big public gatherings these days, especially so soon after the fatal shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay.

“I think it’s worth it, because when we’re thinking about the safety and security of our staff and attendees, I don’t think there’s anything more important than that,” Doan said.

This full story can be accessed for free in its entirety at Voice of OC.



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