KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With a mission to bring people together and put political and religious differences aside, the first Knox Asian Festival took place in Krutch Park ten years ago.
Leroy Kautz, a board member of the festival, remembered how small that first festival felt.
"At the time we had 20 tents and, I believe, about 3,000 people that were participating," Kautz recalled. "So we were actually very happy and thought, 'Wow, this is very successful'."
Organizers had no idea how much the festival would grow. The event then expanded to include Market Square, where they went from 20 tents to more than 100 of them.
And then someone proposed moving the Knox Asian Festival to World's Fair Park.
"I think there was a little hesitation or scared a little," Kautz mentioned. "It is growing, but will it grow enough to fill up the space?"
The festival ended up being more successful than they could have ever imagined.
"All of the areas were packed," Kautz said. "The food vendors grew, the countries participation also."
The festival features traditional clothing, music and food from more than 10 Asian countries. In 2022, the city of Knoxville estimated more than 60,000 attendees and more than $3 million in revenue.
"The things I really like about the festival is just that we have no barriers to the people," Kumi Alderman, its executive director, commented. "Everyone is welcomed in."
Alderman said the festival has grown because more people believe in its mission of creating a more diverse and welcoming community, especially when it comes to helping children grow up to become global citizens.
"I think we are giving a lot for the younger generation to learn about our Asian culture," Alderman added. "And then I really like the smiling faces when I move around the festival, you know, it is like a learning experience with fun."
The 10th Annual Knox Asian Festival will take place on August 26 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Organizers expanded its hours so more people can enjoy it.
This year's festival will feature an Asian Cultural Parade, sumo wrestling, a Japanese drummer from Disney World, among other fun events.