Published September 13, 2013
Thousands of people from Georgia and the Southeast gathered at Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church for the seventh annual fall festival, celebrating the heritage and culture of the Vietnamese-American population.
The three-day event, from Aug. 31-Sept. 2, is filled with music, food, dancing and fellowship and is an annual tradition known for its fundraising for the local Vietnamese community. More than 1,000 volunteers assisted with the event.
“This year’s theme was ‘Justice and Peace,’ and we hope that our messages and prayers will continue to resonate throughout the year,” said parishioner C.C. Nguyen, who helped organize the festival.
Even before the doors opened, the pastor, Father Francis Tran, had advice for the volunteers, Nguyen said.
“Even though there were over 1,000 volunteers … everyone seems to carry Father Tran’s message to heart: ‘This event is our chance to evangelize by serving others with smiles,’” said Nguyen. “At the Saturday midnight Mass for the volunteers, Father Tran continued to remind us that every time we serve, just include smiles and love with it.”
Some 30,000 people pass through the Norcross church campus for the event each year, many from the Atlanta Archdiocese, while others come from nearby states and church communities. The focus this year was raising funds to build a new church for Holy Vietnamese Martyrs, which has a growing number of parishioners.
Father Tran met the enthusiasm of the crowd with welcoming words, as the festival kicked off outdoors under several large white tents.
“Please accept a heartfelt thanks from me and … Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church,” said Father Tran, who expressed his sense of pride and excitement at the sight of so many people in attendance.
The festival is an “opportunity to share the heritage, culture and faith” of the Vietnamese people, he said, but also to recognize their place in American life and to honor the things that unite all people.
Friday’s events included the recitation of the national anthems of Vietnam and the United States and a moment of silence to honor and recognize the ancestors of those in attendance.
Then a series of fireworks were set off as young members of the church performed a dragon dance. The dragon dance traditionally symbolizes blessing and prosperity, and the dance is performed to bring good luck. Other traditional dances by the youth of the parish followed to the delight of the festival participants.
The festival also included several famous Vietnamese musical acts, including Nguyễn Hồng Nhung, Dan Nguyen and Hồ Lệ Thu, as well as authentic food vendors, who sold freshly made dishes throughout the weekend.
Inside the church’s gathering space were various booths with ring toss, darts, photos, face painting, balloon animals and more. Tickets were offered for winning the various games, which could then be traded in for prizes.
Many local representatives were present for the opening of the festival, attending in support of the growing Vietnamese community and Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church. These included state Rep. Pete Marin, Gwinnett County Commissioner-elect Jace Brooks and Steve Ramey, a candidate for state Senate.