Big things are coming to World’s Fair Park, and we’re not just talking about the three sumo wrestlers set to perform at the Tennessee Amphitheater. Twelve countries, over 40 vendors and potentially more than 60,000 people will come together for the 10th Knox Asian Festival.
“I just cannot believe 10 years has passed. I didn’t expect it to grow this big,” festival director Kumi Alderman told Knox News. “We have a 10th anniversary special event. So, I want everyone to join and celebrate.”
The milestone 10th festival is 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 26 at World’s Fair Park in downtown Knoxville. Celebrating diverse Asian cultures, organizers intend for this year’s event to be the biggest and most exciting yet.
Traditional dances, music, martial arts, other family activities and of course authentic food can be enjoyed throughout the day. New this year will be sumo wrestling performances and even water fights reminiscent of Thailand’s traditional New Year celebrations. Admission is free.
“Our mission is to expose our Asian culture to the local community people here,” Alderman said. “We just appreciate the people who come to explore Asian culture. The families, parents, bringing kids to educate the kids.”
And to beat the August heat, Knoxville Utilities Board is providing unlimited filtered water during the event. There also will be cooling stations throughout the park with tables and seating.
The festival was first held in 2014 with just 3,000 attendees, then attendance grew to 60,000 by 2019. It returned in person last year after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
Sumo wrestlers and water fights to cleanse the soul
Alderman has wanted to showcase Japan’s national sport since the very first Knox Asian Festival. Unfortunately, it never worked out, until now.
Three professional sumo wrestlers will perform two one-hour demonstrations. Four-time world sumo champion, Hiroki, who stands at 6’4’’ and weighs nearly 600 lbs., is flying in from Japan. Hiroki is currently featured in “John Wick: Chapter 4,” starring Keanu Reeves, and the Netflix Japanese series, “Sanctuary.”
He’ll be joined by wrestlers Mendsaikhan Tsogt-Erdene and Byamba. And, yes, you’ll have the opportunity to take photos with the pro sumo wrestlers.
Planned in addition to the big sumo wrestlers will be the biggest water fight in the world. Pouring water on Buddha statues during Songkran, Thailand’s New Year, is a traditional ritual that represents purification and washing away sins. But modern generations have incorporated pistols and water buckets to make it a fun celebration.
“It’s still the same meaning of the water to purify our soul,” Alderman said. “We just want to teach how other countries celebrate the new year.”
A full schedule of events is available at knoxasianfestival.com.
A base for world peace
Asian Fest is about celebrating art and culture and introducing it to people in Knoxville and East Tennessee. A passport system, first featured last year, allows festivalgoers to “travel” to the 12 different country booths to learn about each country through trivia and games helps spread the cultural knowledge.
But the festival holds an even deeper meaning for Alderman, one that she’s carried with her since she was child growing up in Japan.
“My really deep, deep reason (for) doing this is because I grew up in Iwakuni city next to Hiroshima. Every time when we were in Hiroshima, my teacher said: ‘Just make friends, don’t hate people. People didn’t do this, war did it. So don’t hate on other people,’” she explained.
“They told me, ‘Keep the friendship, make friendships (with) everyone. You be the base of world peace. That’s my base point.”
Alderman appreciates Knoxville’s decade of support, and it’s not lost on her that the Asian Festival is held in World’s Fair Park, a space created over 40 years ago to welcome countries and cultures from around the globe to Knoxville.
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