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Fruit and Spice Park festival offers a journey to Asia

Special to The Miami Herald
A South Florida park will become part of Asia this weekend.

The 20th annual Asian Cultural Festival returns to Fruit and Spice Park, 24801 SW 187th Ave., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $10. Kids under 12 enter free.

People from all over South Florida drive to the Redland for the festival, said Broward resident Khanya Moolsiri, president of the Thai American Association, which organizes the event.

“It’s a great time for the family to enjoy the shows and great Asian food,” she said.

Founded two decades ago by the Asian American Federation of Florida, the festival attracts more than 10,000 people and features 130 vendors who sell everything from Asian arts and crafts to typical cuisine.

Known for its variety of plant life, the Fruit and Spice Park has hosted the festival, since 1991.

“The park has so many fruit trees from all over the world including from Asia,” Moolsiri said. “It has been popular with the Asian people.”

The two-day affair serves as an opportunity for novice vendors.

“It gives an opportunity for Asians to be able to be a business owner,” she said. Food lovers will have a wide range of dishes to choose from as everything from Chinese to Filipino cuisine will be for purchase. Authentic alcoholic beverages from Asia will also be available like Thai beer Chang.

Homestead resident Hong Thuy Nguyen has attended and participated in the festival for more than 15 years. But last year, she convinced her family to set up a food booth to highlight Vietnamese cuisine. Allowing people to taste the food helps identify the Vietnamese culture she said.

“A lot of people don’t know where Vietnam is,” Nguyen said. “But our food has become popular.”

Her family will prepare a variety of foods including spring rolls and baby clam-cooked lemongrass with sesame rice crackers.

Revelers will feel like they are in Asia when several dancers and musicians take center stage.

For the first time, the event will feature dancers from Chandrakasem Rajabhat University in Bangkok, Thailand. The group will be flying directly from the country. Also, an Iranian group will come to the event to showcase folklore dances.

Festival-goers will also witness a Malaysian no-hands volleyball tournament known as Sepak Takraw, Chinese Lion dances, Chinese acrobats, a Dragon boat display and demonstrations of fruit and vegetable carving.

Kids can hear storytelling or see a puppet show. Children can also participate in the Asian passport activity, where they visit different booths and collects stamps on pretend passports. They get a special gift upon completion.

Moolsiri said the event opens doors to the world.

“It’s good for locals to have a chance to see our culture and a bigger picture of the world,” she said.

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