Community gathers for colorful celebration of Cambodian new year


By John Larson –


Colorful clothing and traditional dancing are among the ways that local residents celebrated their Cambodian heritage at the event.
Photo courtesy of Darren Pen

Members of the local Cambodian community, joined by their neighbors of other ethnic backgrounds, gathered at Khmer Theravandin Buddhist Temple on April 28 to celebrate the Cambodian lunar new year. The theme for this year is the year of the pig.

Traditional food included fried rice, vegetables, beef on skewers and stuffed chicken legs were served. People in colorful outfits performed traditional dances while other people played drums. Children ran around laughing. Their elders performed religious ceremonies. Flags of Cambodia, the United States and Washington were placed around the complex, which is located on East 44thStreet not far from Salishan.

Several community and political leaders addressed the audience. Tacoma City Councilmember Anders Ibsen mentioned values held dear by the Cambodian community, including reverence for tradition and caring for the community. He told the audience that their contributions “make America and the city of Tacoma great.”

Mike Blair, chief of staff for Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, discussed the refugees from Southeast Asia who came to Washington after the Vietnam War. In the case of Cambodians, they were fleeing the horrific violence carried out by the Khmer Rouge in their homeland. Blair said his family sponsored two refugee families.

He mentioned advice he received from a former reporter at The News Tribune to avoid eating at the chain restaurants and instead visit family-owned restaurants serving Asian cuisine along East 72ndStreet and South 38thStreet.

Carol Mitchell, senior counsel for justice services with the Pierce County Executive’s Office, thanked the Cambodian community for holding on to their traditions and sharing them with their neighbors.

Priscilla Lisicich, executive director of Safe Streets, described the temple as a place to celebrate culture and build community

Darren Pen, a longtime community organizer with Safe Street, served as master of ceremonies. He is currently president of the Khmer Community of Tacoma.


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