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home : nation / world : nation/world Sunday, November 19, 2017

6/21/2017 4:45:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
New Organization Wins Bid To Host New Year's Festival At Fresno Fairgrounds

By Macy Yang

Twice, in less than a month, Hmong Cultural New Year's Celebration, Inc. was awarded the winning bid to host the Hmong New Year's festival in Fresno this December. Four organizations submitted bids for the Fresno fairground contract on May 22nd. According to the Invitation for Bids, as the top bidder at $352,000, the organization has four one-year renewal options.

"The priority of the organization right now," says Mitch Herr, President of Hmong Cultural, "is to develop the infrastructure of the organization and prepare for the planning of the New Year Celebration." Further stating that this "provides a tremendous opportunity. We are excited and want to change Hmong lives and make a legacy for our community."

The organization's initial winning bid of $250,000 was rejected several weeks later due to protest from Hmong International New Year Foundation (HINYF). HINYF stated the new organization is inexperienced and a front for United Hmong Council, a former rival. HINYF has hosted the festival at the Fresno fairgrounds for nearly two decades. The protest led to the reissuance of new proposals by the Big Fresno Fair.

Controversy over hosting the Hmong New Year in Fresno County stems as far back as 1998 when competing festivals ran concurrently at Sunnyside and the Fresno fairground. Recently, HINYF and United Hmong Council embroiled in more than five years of litigation, which ended last May when the case was dismissed, in part, on the statute of limitations.

After two winning bids, Herr says, "I don't think it's appropriate for Hmong people to have to do this; I hope this is enough. We should not have to bid and fight like this when we should be fighting with others not each other. Hmong International is the primary protester." Unless there is further protest, the award becomes final on June 2.

A chief complaint of HINYF is that Hmong Cultural and United Hmong Council are the same organizations. Herr disputes the claim, and says the organization is representative of all 18 clan members of the Hmong community. The organization has close relatives that work for United Hmong Council, but they are separate entities.

Moving forward, Herr anticipates the youth playing a big part in the planning of the festival. Further stating that the organization wants to give back to the community in many ways, including scholarships to Hmong students and other community benefits. He is also encouraging and inviting business owners and professionals to play a part as well. More importantly, Herr wants to work toward uniting all organizations by seeking their support and participation so the Hmong community can work together to help each other. "We are not the enemy, we are all related in one way or another; we want everyone to support us including all organizations," Her says.

Hmong International New Year Foundation could not be reached for comment. However, its Facebook page states on April 27, "We are moving forward with plans to conduct a New Year Celebration just as we have since 1998."

As for Hmong Cultural organizing the festival, Herr vows to do their best. Not much will change regarding food, but the overall celebration will be different. Entertainment will be available for both children and adults. The organization will soon have more information about the upcoming event on their website.

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