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Dear Asian Youth Novi and Novi Public Library host the second annual Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Festival

Flyer courtesy of Carrie Ong and Dear Asian Youth Novi

June 2 marks the second annual Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Festival. The festival, organized by Dear Asian Youth Novi (DAYN) and the Novi Public Library (NPL) aims to celebrate and showcase Asian and Pacific Islander foods, culture, arts, and heritage in the community.


DAYN co-leader Rebecca Borlace, who acted as outreach director during last year’s festival, said this year they were able to begin planning much earlier. Since the event was brand new last year, securing a venue was difficult which made advertising and outreach much harder.


“We’re trying to get things done a little bit earlier, especially because last year we only started planning in February, which is really not a lot of time compared to the deadlines that most of these events take which are usually six months plus in advance, ideally, if you want to get everything done,” Borlace said.


Carrie Ong, social media director for DAYN, has been concentrating on branding and advertising for this year’s festival.


“I’ve mainly been focusing on spreading the word around, so that means designing the flyer or Instagram posts and trying to make it look eye-catching and vibrant, so people can be excited to come and see what the festival is like,” Ong said.


In addition, DAYN co-leader Jane Tian has worked on fundraising to make this year’s festival a success. Last year, the festival was mostly funded through a $200 budget provided by the NPL.


“We’ve been trying this year to get more funding for our festival so we can expand on what we did last year. I was working with our treasurer and outreach director and trying to secure more sponsorships,” Tian said. “In the future, we’re thinking of having more fundraising events to help cover our monetary costs for the festival.”


Borlace, Ong, and Tian have been working actively with senior Hana Thorson, a mentor for DAYN, to improve upon last year’s festival. 


“I oversee all of these actions going on, and especially with our outreach director Grace and social media director Carrie. They need assistance with emailing and branding, which I took part in last year a bit,” Thorson said. “So I kind of do mostly team management.”


In addition to increasing outreach, the team is providing shade and comfort for attendees and performers.


“It’s very hot. We have a group that performs barefoot on the pavement which is not ideal for very hot summers. This year we’ve learned we need to provide tarps and mats so that they don’t burn their feet. Also, considering the weather with our sound equipment and in terms of where we’re placing tables at our festival, we want to give people as much shade as possible because it is in June so it’s still going to be hot. Learning from our experiences last year has definitely given us a lot of guidance this year as well,” Tian said.


Despite last year’s challenges, the festival was a major success. Many local leaders and organizations are involved in making this year’s festival an even bigger event.


The festival will include opening speaker Priya Gurumurthy, a member of the Novi city council. According to an article by Susan Bromley of Hometown Life, Gurumurthy, who was appointed in December of 2023, plans on “optimizing road closures to reduce impacts on residents; expanding affordable housing; creating a senior-friendly community; cultivating environmental leadership and climate sustainability; and promoting girls and STEM.”


Borlace says that they wanted to choose an opening speaker who was local and active in the community and turned to the city council and library board to find candidates.


After the opening comments, attendees can visit various vendors, including local favorite restaurants such as Kimchi Box, Kung Fu Tea, New Dehli, and Vani Foods, as well as student-run organizations.


“We are actually showcasing like a ton of clubs from Novi, including a few, like student-owned, Asian-owned local businesses. So if you want to show up and support, those are also really cool as well,” Borlace said. 


27th Letter Books, an Asian-owned bookstore will have books available for purchase. In addition to vendors, those attending can see performances by community groups and get henna and face painting done. 


“We have the Michigan Lion Dance group performing their traditional lion dance. I don’t want to describe it; you’ll have to come see it and experience it for yourself,” Ong said. “I am the co-captain of our team, so I’ll be there to support both groups. I’m actually super excited. That’s just one of the performances we have. It will be near the start of the festival, around 1:30.”


In addition to the Michigan Lion Dance team, Aloha Polynesian dance group, Sakura Instrumental Group, and Nunmaan Tamil Academy will all be performing.


“We’re super grateful to our performers because we don’t compensate them,” Tian said. “This is like a volunteer basis where they sign up to help us out, which is super great. Support for them would be amazing.”


The DAYN team all agreed that everyone is welcome and encouraged to come to the festival to learn more about API culture. 


“We know how diverse Novi is and the point of our festival is really to celebrate that diversity and to showcase our local businesses and promote them and help them show like, ‘Oh, this performer or this business is selling these kinds of foods’ and maybe you wouldn’t have normally tried these kinds of things before, but maybe you enjoyed them,” Tian said. “We’re really fortunate as a community in Novi to be surrounded by so many different groups of people. At DAYN, it’s always been our mission to build a safe space for those people to show off, and also just to support our community in general. The community engagement aspect is really important to us.”


Ong and Borlace both said that last year’s festival helped to connect them even further to the AAPI community in Novi beyond the school community.


“Last year as a volunteer, I got to meet a bunch of AAPI people from our community and the performances were all very interactive. I had a really good time learning and watching them,” Ong said. “I think it’s like a really engaging experience, especially if you aren’t very familiar with the AAPI community in Novi. It’s also just super fun, being able to relax after testing and when the school year is almost over.”


“I feel like there’s a strong sense of community within like the individual Asian communities in Novi, like I know a lot of like different Chinese families in the area, but I can’t really say that I feel that same sense of community as like a pan-Asia as a whole,” Borlace said. “I feel like with the API Heritage Festival, you get to meet people from different cultures and get a little bit more exposed. It helps you sort of step out of that realm a little bit.”


Thorson urges people of all ages and backgrounds to attend the festival.


“What I saw last year, people from all different age ranges came. We saw toddlers and seniors walking around Fuerst Park last year. Not only high schoolers and adults are able to enjoy the festival but it’s really open to all age groups, and it sounded like they enjoyed the API Festival last year. So, if you have any relatives or younger siblings, they should definitely come,” Thorson said. “Not only students should come but admin, and all the staff members here definitely should show up as well.”


If you’re interested in attending, the festival is hosted at Fuerst Park on June 2, 2024, from 1 to 5 p.m.


“The most important part about the API Heritage Festival in Novi is showing up because communities have to be supported for them to thrive. And the API Heritage Festival is just another avenue for the Novi Community to keep the thriving API community here alive. Show up and support,” Borlace said.

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Arieis Feldpausch
Arieis Feldpausch, Editor in Chief
Arieis “A” Feldpausch is a senior. This is her third year on staff. In her free time, Arieis enjoys indie folk music (specifically The Mountain Goats), rollerblading and roller derby, playing guitar, and writing poetry. You can email her with story ideas at [email protected] or [email protected] 
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