First Pacific Islands Asian American Festival in Santa Cruz

To celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the city of Santa Cruz hosted its first AAPI Festival on Saturday. The festival included a roster of activities, entertainment and food from across the Asian diaspora. Over 300 people from across Santa Cruz County attended, including many notable Asian American activists like Randy Sabado and Roy Recio. Also in attendance were community leaders like Congressman Jimmy Panetta, Santa Cruz Mayor Sonja Brunner and NAACP Santa Cruz County President Brenda Griffin. “I’m really happy to see so many people coming out and so many people from the community getting a chance to tune in,” said co-host Peter Weng. The festival was held at 418 Project, a community arts center located on the grounds of Santa Cruz’s last Chinatown. By the 1950s, nearly everyone in Chinatown moved away in search of better opportunities and fleeing racism. All that remains today is a single decorative arch with a dragon statue perched on top. “It gives me a lot of heart because it’s where I grew up when Chinatown was coming to an end,” said George Ow, a Santa Cruz businessman and philanthropist. “I feel like the spirits of all of these people feel like they’re recognized and not forgotten.” Stephanie Cheung. The organizers who now lead the group are: Peter Weng, Tam Welch, Akiko Minami and Stephanie Barron Lu. According to co-organizer Tam Welch, the need to build a stronger local community amid a series of violence against Americans of Asian descent throughout the pandemic has been the impetus for the event. “A big conversation about this festival is, what happened here in Santa Cruz. What is available to our communities and why are we going over the hill to get our food, our groceries, our community, our Lunar New Year experiences. Why aren’t we staying here in Santa Cruz?” said Tam Welch. The event ended with a proclamation from the mayor. Mayor Brunner has declared May Asian Native American Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the City of Santa Cruz. “I think we’re really special because for so long we haven’t really seen each other like around and all that and we haven’t seen our community, but now we’re just emerging. And we’re really stronger than ever,” said Santa Cruz High School student Laura Wang.

To celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the city of Santa Cruz hosted its first AAPI Festival on Saturday.

The festival included a roster of activities, entertainment and food from across the Asian diaspora.

Over 300 people from across Santa Cruz County attended, including many notable Asian American activists like Randy Sabado and Roy Recio. Also in attendance were community leaders like Congressman Jimmy Panetta, Santa Cruz Mayor Sonja Brunner and NAACP Santa Cruz County President Brenda Griffin.

“I’m really happy to see so many people coming out and so many people from the community getting a chance to tune in,” said co-host Peter Weng.

The festival was held at 418 Project, a community arts center located on the grounds of Santa Cruz’s last Chinatown.

By the 1950s, nearly everyone in Chinatown moved away in search of better opportunities and fleeing racism. All that remains today is a single decorative arch with a dragon statue perched on top.

“It gives me a lot of heart because it’s where I grew up when Chinatown was coming to an end,” said George Ow, a Santa Cruz businessman and philanthropist. “I feel like the spirits of all these people feel like they’re recognized and not forgotten.”

The event was organized by members of the group, Asian Americans of Santa Cruz County, which was originally founded on Facebook by former Santa Cruz resident Stephanie Cheung. The organizers who now lead the group are: Peter Weng, Tam Welch, Akiko Minami and Stephanie Barron Lu.

According to co-organizer Tam Welch, the need to build a stronger local community amid a spate of violence against Asian Americans throughout the pandemic was the impetus for the event.

“A big conversation about this festival is, what happened here in Santa Cruz. What is available to our communities and why are we going over the hill to get our food, our groceries, our community, our Lunar New Year experiences. Why aren’t we staying here in Santa Cruz?” said Tam Welch.

The event ended with a proclamation from the mayor.

Mayor Brunner has declared May Asian Native American Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the City of Santa Cruz.

“I think we’re really special because for so long we haven’t really seen each other like around and all that and we haven’t seen our community, but now we’re just emerging. And we’re really stronger than ever,” said Santa Cruz High School student Laura Wang.