ARLINGTON — An afternoon of cultural music, dance and food came along with the cold weather in Arlington on Saturday at the 18th annual Eggroll Festival at Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Church.This was the second year that the festival was held at the church, the largest capacity Vietnamese Catholic church in the nation. Before, the event was held at Trader’s Village in Grand Prairie.The new environment means members of the city’s Asian-American population can celebrate under one roof.Organized by the Tarrant County Asian-American Chamber of Commerce, the festival drew crowds with its signature eggroll competition. Festival-goers enjoyed creative eggroll platters, all while watching many presentations of arts and culture by representatives of various Asian countries.“I believe this festival really shows the heart and soul of the community,” event chairman and chamber community coordinator Liem Tran said.Tran said the chamber uses the entire year between festivals to plan for the following year’s celebration.“We have a lot of support from the community,” he said. “So we organized this to see the joy of participants, of families. It’s something that lets the community come together to celebrate joy, a way for us to learn to enjoy life instead of staying at home doing nothing.”A talent show featured performers of all ages, representing countries from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and more.Chamber president Yen Nguyen said the competition is a great way to expose residents to the many cultures throughout Asia and to celebrate diversity through performances that are important to each community.Some parents took the stage with their children for a spirited, traditional dance routine blended with modern dance styles. Performers from ages 7 to 70 all found their own way to show what their culture means to them.Some sang Vietnamese renditions of Frank Sinatra songs, some jingled in rhythm as they danced in traditional garb, some played pa’tala (wooden) xylophones and danced around the stage.One of the most moving performances was a harrowing account of the devastation caused by the Vietnam War told through dance, with families shuffling sorrowfully around the stage.The war holds importance to the church; many of the original 6,000-member congregation emigrated from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975. The community had grown to more than 500 families by 1997.Today, events such as the Eggroll Festival celebrate not only how the Asian-American community has grown, but how members continue to incorporate their traditions into everyday life.Diah Nasution brought her young dance group from the DFW Indonesian Community for a performance of Indang Badinding, a traditional dance from Sumatra Island that gathers people of all ages, male or female.Nasution said the dance is performed in Indonesian villages to welcome new guests. She wanted her dancers to perform in front of a larger audience, but also said she hopes future festivals will reach out to a bigger audience of cultures outside the Asian community.As the community continues to grow in Arlington, church members, chamber members and community members hope to find new ways to gather everyone together to celebrate life and culture under one roof.
Taylor Prater, 817-390-7964 Twitter: @taylornprater