Gina Chong is still reeling after a racist encounter she had last spring at Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park.
Chong was out for a stroll with a friend when a woman asked if they could snap a photo of her.
The pair declined, citing physical distancing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But instead of walking away, the woman retorted in a loud voice, “This COVID is all because of you guys. Go back to China. It came from your country,” remembered Chong, who is Canadian-born and of Korean descent.
Livid by the outburst and determined to make a change, Chong launched a non-profit group aimed at educating people about anti-racism.
Her organization held rallies to bring attention to the increase in hate crimes, especially against Asians since the pandemic began.
Still, Chong wanted to do more to make a statement.
She recalled an idea by Ann Carlsen and Al Lau of the Coquitlam Heritage Society to host a dumpling festival and asked for their blessing to take the concept to a bigger audience.
In June, Chong and her committee of 15 volunteers launched the Asian Arts and Culture Society to organize the inaugural BC Dumpling Festival at the same park where she and her friend were racially attacked.
She hopes the multi-cultural event will not only address racism, but it also brings the community together to feast and socialize.
“We want to be inclusive,” Chong said. “We want to expose people to the many Asian elements that we have in the Tri-Cities.”
According to a study, Chinese make up about 43 per cent of the total visible minority population in Coquitlam; the second largest is Korean.
To date, Chong said her group has raised $60,000 to run the event on Saturday, Aug. 13 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Funding and support have come in from Sandpiper Signs, TD Bank, Arbutus Search Group, Telus, JLink Telecom and Vesta, among other corporations; the Tri-City News is also a media sponsor.
As well, Chong has set up a GoFundMe page to raise more money to pay for tents, site rental, security, fencing and a photo booth.
As for the festival food, Chong said it will span the globe.
“Every culture has a dumpling,” she said, rattling off a list that includes:
- jiaozi, wonton, xiaolongbao and dim sum (China)
- gyoza (Japan)
- mandu (Korea)
- momos (India/Nepal)
- patties (Jamaica)
- pierogis (Poland)
- siomay (Indonesia)
- yomari (Nepal)
- knodel (Europe)
- samosas (multiple regions)
Besides the food fair at the parking lot, off Trevor Wingrove Way, there will also be children’s activities nearby on the grass plus Asian entertainment on the TD Community Plaza stage.
Community groups will have kiosks on the grounds to promote their causes.
Already, the society has about 80 volunteers from across Metro Vancouver; however, more are needed to help with waste management, set up and take down, park hosting, children’s activities and performer organization. Graduation credit for volunteering will be available to high school students.
Chong said she expects to see up to 10,000 visitors to Town Centre Park.
“It’s not just a festival. It stemmed from an incident that needs to be told.”
As for Lau, the board secretary for the Coquitlam Heritage Society, he’s happy Chong took up his and Carlsen’s idea.
“Coquitlam Heritage is proud to be part of the Dumpling Festival,” he told the Tri-City News. “This festival reflects our belief that we should celebrate the diverse community in which we live.
“Dumplings in different forms are enjoyed by many cultures,” he added. “By enjoying the many forms dumplings take, we hope that the participants will celebrate that we have more in common than we have differences.”
The City of Coquitlam, which offered a Spirit of Coquitlam grant for $15,394 to the society in July, said the municipality is a proud host of the new festival.
“This event celebrates culture and diversity through the sharing of food and music, and is a fantastic reflection of the diversity found in Coquitlam,” said tourism manager Eric Kalnins.
“Events such as the BC Dumpling Festival add excitement to our vibrant visitor economy in Coquitlam and is going to be another fun summer event for residents and visitors. We welcome everyone to come experience the BC Dumpling Festival, and while here be sure to explore our tasty local food and beverage establishments.”
• To volunteer, donate or learn more about the BC Dumpling Festival, go to bcdumplingfest.com.