Festival celebrates Asian culture on Risman Plaza


Pam Souza, 34, of the Sho-Jo-Ji Japanese dancers, performs a traditional Japanese dance at Asian Fest on Risman Plaza on Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014.

Kaitlin Siegel

Students experienced and celebrated Asian cultures on Thursday at the Asian Fest held in Risman Plaza from 4-7 p.m.

A free event sponsored by the College of the Arts as its annual Fall for the Arts program, the festival featured Asian cuisine including Taiwanese-style fried chicken, Indian chicken curry, Chinese sweet and sour pork and Korean Kimchi Pancakes available for students to sample.

The festival also featured live demonstrations and performances by the Chinese Yin Tang Dance Company, Sho-jo-ji Japanese Dancers and Kent State’s Wind and Thai Ensembles.

The Kent State Wind Ensemble, conducted by Jesse Leyva, the director of bands and associate professor of music, opened the event followed by a performance from the Kent Thai Ensemble, directed by Priwan Nanongkham, who also performed on a bamboo mount organ.

Sam Ondich, a sophomore nursing major, said she was impressed with Yang Jin’s musical performance on the pipa, a four-stringed traditional Chinese instrument that is plucked like a guitar.

“I’ve never seen an instrument like that before,” Ondich said. “It sounded really exotic.”

Gabi Shook, a junior musical theater major, helped students participate in the inflatable sumo wrestling station. 

“I was definitely intrigued by this event and wanted to be a part of it,” Shook said.

Helen Hines, a freshman fashion merchandising major, said she heard about Asian Fest through emails from the College of the Arts and came for the Asian cuisine and musical performances. 

“I like all the food so far, but the bubble tea wasn’t exactly what I expected,” Hines said. “I wasn’t expecting to get something solid in a liquid drink.”

John Crawford, the dean of the College of Arts, said each year the Fall for the Arts event focuses on a different culture. 

“There’s a large population of international Asian students, especially Chinese students,” Crawford said. “We thought it’d be a good idea to focus (on) that culture. Every time we do a culture-based event like this we connect with student groups on campus to make sure it’s as authentic and real as we can make it.”

Crawford said a number of the performances and entertainment in the event are artists from Kent.

“We really wanted to showcase all the talent we have here,” Crawford said.

He hopes the festival opens students’ eyes to a different culture.

“The arts, culture and food are huge areas that bring us together as people,” he said.

Next year’s Fall for the Arts festival will celebrate Greek culture.

Contact Kaitlin Siegel at [email protected].