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1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204
POSTED APRIL 13, 2017
(Portland, OR) –
All are welcome to join community partners and Portland Parks & Recreation at the third annual Cambodian/Lao/Thai/Burmese New Year in the Park. Four vibrant Southeast Asian cultures join together for a day full of food, music, dance and games on Saturday, April 29, 2017. The event was founded by a Cambodian refugee, Saron Khut, and is the largest local event of its kind. Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz will join other special guests, including Doug Fasching and Anne Lindsay of the Central Northeast Neighborhood Coalition, which sponsored one of the grants which is funding the event.
Photo: Performers at the 2016 New Year in the Park
“With the integration of refugee and immigrants into our community, Portland is increasingly richer and culturally diverse,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “Many of these families have faced – and continue to face - tremendous challenges. New Year in the Park is an opportunity to celebrate the cultures of Southeast Asia, and to reaffirm that Portland Parks & Recreation is inclusive and a safe place for everyone. That goes for all neighbors, whether they’ve been in Portland for a week or for their entire lives.”
Cambodian, Laotian, Thai and Burmese cultures all celebrate New Year each April, but historically, Portland’s communities always held separate celebrations. Now, for the third straight year, the different but equally fascinating languages and cultures are coming together to foster greater understanding and appreciation of these proud communities. The New Year is the most important celebrations in many Southeast Asian cultures. More than 10,000 people attended 2016’s New Year in the Park.
“The multicultural New Year celebration is another important step towards the inclusion of all Portlanders in enjoying our parks and natural areas,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. “We want all Portlanders, regardless of culture, background, ethnicity or gender to know that the parks belong to you. We will continue to work hard to remove or reduce barriers to access and participation for everyone, including communities of color, people with disabilities, or recent immigrants.”
The City of Portland’s Immigrant Integration Policy Advisory, Ronault (Polo) Catalani, will serve as Master of Ceremonies, along with Chanpone Sinlapasai-Okamura, Board President of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO).
New Year in the Park founder Saron Khut lived through the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, whose leaders slaughtered more than 1 million victims. Khut has been a Portlander and a business owner for more than 35 years.
“I was so happy to be in America, even though I knew nothing about the country, the language, the culture,” Khut recalls of coming to the Rose City. “As I grew up in Portland I tried to assimilate as much as I could, but I still valued the culture of my homeland. I want my children to realize who and where they come from. That’s why it is so special to partner with Portland Parks & Recreation, to tie my current home and city to my native land and culture.
“It is special to see the New Year in the Park celebration return for its third year,” he added. “And to be a part of PP&R’s efforts to help newcomers to Portland realize the opportunities available to them, as well as to realize their own potential. Immigrant communities need to feel safe, to learn that they are welcome in public spaces – this is not something that always comes naturally to people from other countries. PP&R’s efforts towards inclusion are vital, and the Bureau’s support has been outstanding.
“PP&R is helping us realize the dream of having a celebration this diverse, this large, and this fun, for the third straight year.”
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