I arrived at Main Street Garden at last, and I am met with full crowd. The 24th Annual Asian Festival was being held this year in downtown Dallas and of all the places they could have picked, they went with Main Street Garden. This fairly large rectangular box splayed in the middle of downtown fits into the vein of Central Park at NYC. But you tend to feel the full weight of this enormity of what that place represents since its image has been made over countless times by artists across the globe. When I said that the place was full, that was a bit of an understand: It was teeming with people.
SUPER HAPPY FUN-TIME
You gotta love a free event. It brings out everybody. And I mean everybody. I brushed shoulders with the downtown residents who seemed to have figured out about the event on that day. They were either gathered around their local cliques taking up many spots as possible on the sidewalk or checking out the arts and crafts vendors pondering how much money to spend on an item. Families of the dance performers were also present. If not for the chairs which were in the direct sunlight making it rather uncomfortable to sit, you would see many of them siting at the shaded patio area next to the customer service booth of Maple Garden or taking advantage of the water fountain area where many of the kids turned it into a splash party.
And who doesn't love dogs? People to came brought their canine companions also, which stole the attention away from what was going on that Saturday. But even with all of the mini-distractions, the mild humidity, and the occasional scrambling of event managers, the Asian Festival garnered just the good amount of attention that it needed, which was a challenge within itself. Navigating a festival isn't easy, especially when it had to compete with Iron Fork at Addison, Wildflower Festival at Richardson, Dragonboat Racing at Irving, and Dallas ComicCon across town. That weekend felt more like the Hunger Games of festivals.
You should really try the bubble tea
Some positive things that can be said about this year's festival was its variety, which may have been its saving grace. Many of the information booth tents that carried water bottles were priced at $2.00. Yes. $2.00. Thankfully the powers-that-be behind the event had the price marked down by a dollar. And water is a good thing to have at your disposal when your looking to wet your appetite with Asian cuisine. Yim Yam, Aloha Shave Ice, Bombay Street Food, and all of other food trucks were there. Whenever there is an opportunity to sell food at a free festival, you can count on the food truck crew to be there to feed you. I decided to try some bubble tea at one of the trucks and let me tell you, you're missing out. The berries in the drink gives it a unique flavor, and it was clearly the most popular dish to try.
I went over to the vendors that were there and gained more knowledge about other events. A-Kon for instance, which is around the corner is a must attend event for any anime fans out there. The Asian Film Festival will be held in Dallas this July. Yes there will be plenty of films to watch. Yes they are subtitled. And yes they are awesome to watch on the big screen. Southwestern Medical Center, a sponsor at the event was there. Clearly to promote their pet projects, but I learned hands-only CPR. A technique that may be useful someday. I was impressed by handcrafted Buddha idols. Stared a little bit too much at many of the female dancers that preformed on stage. This robotic kid-sized doll by the name of "Anthony" stole the imagination of some kids as he operated a tricycle around the park. It's owner, a laid-back guy with a massive remote control.
Really? That's what you're going with?
Some drawbacks that hampered the festival a little. One drawback was the presence of Budweiser Beer. Their "Spokespeople" offered some heavy handed swag gifts about the importance of drinking responsibly and to be a designated driver. The festival didn't serve alcohol, otherwise the atmosphere would have been a little different. They stuck out like sore thumbs. Speaking of sore. They had a stage for performers from many eastern countries performing traditional-style entertainment. But many of the crowds came to this smaller black tent that had performers who... breakdance. Wow! Step Up Live! I secretly hoped that one of the performers would have gotten heat exhaustion or better a shred of dignity. But no, that's what they were working with.
But clearly it would have to be McDonald's presence at the festival the seemed to be the most jarring. While most people were buying some good eats and treat themselves to some face art or temporary tattoos, the red team sent their minions to push free samples. Chase was also there as well, with their free swag giveaway. But they weren't as invasive as McDonald's. Who brought a lot of their gear to the festival. You know that a company may be up to something, when they're offering to post photo booth pics of you on Facebook, in exchange for an e-mail or contact information.
Pan Pepsico wasn't invasive at all. They were just persuasive. Every hour, on the hour, they had food items to give away. First it was orange gatorade, then chips with cheese dip, and then every item they had in their pantry. Of all of the vendors that were there, Pepsi was consistently bringing in the long lines. It didn't really matter if they wanted your demographic type or your contact info; They wanted you to at least try out their snack food.
The Asian Festival did their best to open minds and a few wallets and it was nice that the festival was accommodating to everyone who came. They even included dancers from other cultures to perform onto the stage, which was an interesting twist. There was plenty of food variety to try out and some free samples also. I wasn't too ecstatic that there was a counter-dance area which consisted of a breakdance crew and some of the sponsors who were there should have been a little more "actively involved" in the festival instead of phoning it in. (you know who you are) Otherwise, not bad given to the number of other events that were out there in Dallas that weekend.