Why To Go: Cleveland Asian Fest
4 Reasons To Love This AsiaTown Event
By Lexi Hotchkiss, Images by Cody York
Just a few blocks east of Downtown Cleveland sits an inconspicuous neighborhood that’s brimming with the kind of delicious authenticity that only the most hipster of eateries could aspire to belong.
Dotting the urban streetscape is more than 20 family-owned businesses boasting worldly noshing and Eastern grocers; unique trinkets, handmade wares and cool retail; and a global citizenship representing places like China, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.
It's Cleveland’s AsiaTown — running from E. 18th to E. 40th streets, and from St. Clair to Perkins avenues — and it’s best experienced during the 9th Annual Cleveland Asian Festival on May 19-20.
Here’s a few reasons you can’t miss it …
1. Best. Food. Ever.
Bahn mi, bibimbap, chutney, dumplings, kimche, lo mein, larb, mandu, pho, steamed buns, sticky rice … if your mouth isn’t watering right about now, you’ve got a problem.
"We make sure that the people vending food at the Cleveland Asian Festival are providing high-quality Asian meals," Johnny Wu, one of the festival founders, said. "We don't want visitors to think they're just coming to any regular festival. We want them to be able to enjoy the best of Asian cuisine."
In previous years, festivalgoers noshed mango cakes from Koko Bakery, big bowls of vermicelli from #1 Pho and plenty of old-school ethnic dishes cooked up by members of many of Cleveland's Asian community groups.
2. Sumo Wrestling, Anyone?
Ready to work off that big bowl of noods? Then suit-up for the oh-so-popular sumo wrestling competitions where participants battle each other inside inflatable sumo wrestler costumes.
Or, if you prefer to take on next-level eating, enter the sushi-eating contest and/or eggroll-eating contest for the chance to take home a swanky new t-shirt, shiny trophy and bragging rights.
3. From Bollywood to K-Pop
Think your version of the running man is pretty fly? (PS: It’s not.) Check out the moves from many of the festival’s performance groups who bring some seriously legit cultural infusion to the dance floor during the Asian Pop Dance Competition. Dance categories include Bollywood (India), C-Pop (China), J-Pop (Japan), K-Pop (South Korea) and Nepali Hip Hop.
Throughout the festival, don’t be surprised if you run into a few Polynesian hula dancers, Japanese Taiko drummers, kung fu fighters and belly dancers.
4. Lions & Henna & Wares
Festivalgoers are pretty sweet on the dance of the lion. Performed by two people in a large lion costume — adorned with brightly colored trinkets, fur, glitter and mirrors — the dance is accompanied by a band of cymbals and drums. Why? To symbolically scare away evil spirits, of course. Better yet, feed it money and you might just score some good luck.
Stay longer and hop on an AsiaTown tour; treat yourself to an intricate henna tattoo; shop unique art and clothing from dozens of vendors; scope a fashion show; and learn the art of cosplay.
The Cleveland Asian Festival, located at E. 27th Street and Payne Avenue, will be held May 19-20 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Admission is free.
Visitors are encouraged to utilize the free parking available at the Cleveland State University parking lot off Payne Avenue. From there, festivalgoers may either walk the three blocks to the festival or take a free shuttle (runs every 10-15 minutes).
Click here to learn more about this uniquely Cleveland fest.
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In the mood to experience more of Cleveland’s many festivals and events? Visit Destination Cleveland’s events calendar for the 411 on what’s happening in The Land here.