OCA Debut at Hmong New Year Return to Fresno

People Talking to each other

The annual Hmong New Year celebration returned to Fresno this past December following a one-year, COVID-pandemic hiatus. More than 44,000 visitors – including Hmong, Laotian, and Vietnamese – attended the four-day event at Fresno’s fairgrounds. Prior to COVID-19, the Hmong New Year opened its doors to more than 120,000 visitors over seven days.

The event allowed the Office of Community Affairs’ Asian Pacific Islander liaison, Sandra Lee, to introduce herself – and her new role – to the community. “It was great to see members of community enjoying our Hmong New Year. The event was a great opportunity to speak to business leaders, elders and families about my role and hear their concerns,” Lee said.

Hmong New Year tradition

The Hmong Cultural New Year Celebration organization hosts Fresno’s Hmong New Year. Mitch Herr, the organization’s president, says that the celebration is among the most important in the nation. “Fresno’s Hmong New Year is among the largest in the U.S. and I believe in the world.” Herr added that over the event’s 40-year history, it has attracted people from all over the country and world.

The Hmong New Year is observed as the time when young and old come together to celebrate the annual end of the harvest season. Community members convene to share traditional food, music, and dance. The event is also a place where young people take part in traditional courtships, which include a customary ball toss where an interested suitor tosses a ball to a young girl or man and, if it is returned, dating begins.

Herr added that the annual celebration here in the U.S. serves to preserve the Hmong culture. “The Hmong New Year celebration is a way to pass down our traditions from generation to generation,” Herr said.

Hmong community rooted in Fresno
According to Herr, in the 70s and early 80s, the Hmong who arrived in Fresno saw the Valley’s rich agricultural land as a place to raise their families and continue farming. Now, he shared, the sons, daughters and grandchildren of those original arrivals are working professionals. “Our elders see education as the key to success and many of us in my generation are professionals. We are hard-working people and contribute to Fresno’s success,” said Herr.

Lee, Fresno’s Office of Community Affairs API Liaison, agrees. “The Hmong community has made Fresno their home for over 40 years and is part of the fabric of Fresno. We have added to the city’s cultural richness and economic growth. Our community continues striving for a better quality of life. We are your neighbors, classmates, colleagues and friends,” Lee said.