By LINDSAY GLADU, Special to the Bulletin | Published September 4, 2014
NORCROSS—This year’s Hoi Cho Mua Thu “Fall Festival,” presented by the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church, started on a somber note with prayers for peace throughout the world and a reminder that the guests were blessed with the ability to gather without worry or persecution.
About 10,000 people attended the opening night of the three-day long festival on Friday, Aug. 29, in Norcross. The aroma of spices, fish sauce, sizzling beef and barbecued pork wafted through the spectacle of tents constructed near the church off of Interstate 85.
The festival, launched in 2009 in part to raise funds for a new and larger church for the growing community, has become known to Vietnamese communities nationwide. Each Labor Day weekend it brings together Vietnamese Catholics from around the Southeast. This year’s theme was unity.
“We are not a nation divided,” said Father Martino Nguyen, who traveled from the Diocese of Savannah to attend the festival.
The cultural celebration provides a place for Vietnamese families to enjoy their heritage, but also recognize themselves as part of a community, Father Nguyen said.
For Linh Tran, her husband and two daughters, the communal aspect is a big reason they’ve returned to the festival for the past five years.
The entertainment and singers are the other reason, she said.
This year’s featured musical artists were: Mai Tien Dung; Tran Thai Hoa; Diem Lien; Giang Tu; Hurong Thuy; Cat Tien; Don Ho; Hurong Giang; Duc Tuan; Cong Thanh and Lynn; Luu Bich and Le Tan Dat.
To begin the festival, Father Francis Tran, pastor of Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church, welcomed his guests and a choir led the audience in the Vietnamese and U.S. anthems.
A crash of the cymbals and the boom of a bass drum jerked the audience’s attention behind them.
Six shimmying and pulsating red, orange, gold and yellow dragons danced through the crowds to the opening ceremony tent to kick off the main festivities. The dragons could be seen across the festival grounds poking their feathered, sequined and silk-covered heads up through the throngs of people like a whack-a-mole game.
The crowd ooh-ed and aah-ed at the Bhutanese-style dancers who weaved their way across the ceremony stage. And young parishioners’ eyes were glued to the stage during a modern hip-hop number by Diverze King Krew.
In between dance performances, Bishop David P. Talley addressed the crowd during the opening ceremony with a few words on unity.
“Unity. It doesn’t come like magic, it’s not a dream, it’s not a political reality,” Bishop Talley said. “It is a work of God, and the work of this parish. Promise the Lord this night that you will never be divided against neighbor again. And this is only possible if you surrender to God.”
It’s the fellowship of the event that Father Tran believes will continue to draw crowds of up to 40,000 people each year. Each time, more and more people come to spend time in Eucharistic adoration in addition to the fun of the festival, he said. A spiritual program offered talks on peace and unity in the family and in the parish, in addition to Mass and adoration until 1 a.m.
Music of every style, challenges and competitions for youth and teens, and programs lasted till after midnight daily.
“It gives the family a chance to celebrate together,” Father Tran said. “It gives us a chance to share the Catholic faith with others.”