Organizers of the Lao New Year's event in Crystal on Saturday say they brought the region's Hmong, Burmese and Laotian communities to celebrate together for the first time.
Minnesota is home to the third-largest population of Lao in the United States, said Chanida Phaengdara Potter of the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota. But she said they have been celebrating the New Year in small groups.
"There were a couple years that went by and we didn't even get to celebrate our New Year," she said. "We didn't get to celebrate very important cultural and Buddhist traditions. And people were holding religious ceremonies in gyms and it just wasn't right. So we realized that, hey, we need to come together and make this happen. And I think that's where the significance of us collaborating has happened."
Potter added: "Before it was always held at the wat, which is the Lao temple. And a large part of the coordinating was up to the temples to do. Now we're doing it more community-based, which is really important. In Laos it's mainly community-based as well, so it's really important to us that it's also a way to unify and create community."
Last year the elders handed off responsibility for the New Year's event to younger people who were looking for ways to connect with their culture, Potter said. Those new leaders were able to bring more than 20 community organizations together, she said, to collaborate on the second annual New Year's celebration.
Having a larger, centralized New Year's celebration will strengthen the Lao community by creating new connections, she said.