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Knoxville Asian Festival makes comeback with message of love and unity

With a rise in anti-Asian incidents, organizers say they hope the festival will bring people together.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville Asian Festival made its comeback on Sunday after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ruth Utami, who helped organize the event, said they hoped the festival would provide a chance for people to come together once again.

"We lost people, we were stuck at home," she said. "So today, we are hoping that we will get the impression for everybody that we will come out of COVID and we are coming back stronger together."

The festival is meant to highlight different Asian cultures and traditions. This year people had the chance to try traditional foods from 13 different Asian countries, including China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Attendees also had an opportunity to learn more about traditional Asian clothing and music.

However, organizers said this year's event held more weight than before. Aside from separation and solitude, the pandemic caused a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes across the U.S. According to Stop AAPI Hate, there were reports of more than 9,000 anti-Asian incidents through the first year of the pandemic.

"You do not love someone until you know them," Utami mentioned. "With this festival we want you to know us, so when you know us, then you will be able to love us as much as we love you guys."

So whether it was through eating or dancing, executive director Kumi Alderman hoped people in attendance would be able to come together despite cultural differences.

"I think this festival brings people together," she added. "That is what I want everyone to feel when they leave this festival. We are not strangers. In a way we are friends."

The Knoxville Asian Festival will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in 2023.

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