Many businesses are preparing for a sales boom next week as visitors surge into Fresno for the funeral of Hmong leader Gen. Vang Pao.
Hmong leaders say that 30,000 to 40,000 people, including many from out of town, may attend the funeral over the course of the six-day event Feb. 4-9. They have booked the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center with that in mind.
“The economic impact on the community is going to trickle down from the retailers all the way down to the farmers,” said Bobby Vang, a partner in the Asian Village shopping center on Kings Canyon Road in Fresno. “It is going to be a huge event.”
Vang said the level of business expected could rival that of the Hmong New Year, which draws 100,000 visitors during the week after Christmas each year.
And unlike the New Year celebration, when much of the spending takes place at the event, people attending the funeral likely will spend money throughout the business community, said Vang and other business owners.
The general’s funeral could produce a crowd similar to that of the Clovis Rodeo, which brings 35,000 people to the area for four days in late April. Clovis city officials estimate that the event provided a $2.5 million economic impact to the city last year.
Although the economic impact of the Hmong New Year is unknown, business owners say they expect a boost in business during the general’s funeral.
Those involved in helping to stage the funeral already are planning for some long hours.
Inside a compact southeast Fresno flower shop, florist Sonia Yang will be designing and creating at least 40 flower arrangements for the funeral. And she has been asked by the Vang family to create 20 intricate paper flower arrangements, known as paper money.
Part of the arrangements are burned after the funeral to provide the deceased with money in the after life.
Although Yang would not say how much she is being paid, she said the flower cost for an average funeral is about $8,000.
“And this is going to be a big funeral,” Yang said. “The general was such an important man that I think he needs 1,000 arrangements.”
To many Hmong, the general is revered for helping to lead guerrilla forces against the Communists in Vietnam as well as helping Hmong immigrants settle in the United States.
Longtime restaurant owner Chin Cherhoua Lee plans to order extra chickens, ducks and pigs to handle the out-of- town visitors who may come to his Cedar Avenue restaurant.
He expects at least a 30% increase in business.
“We know that the funeral is going to bring in a lot of people, and we want to be able to provide them with the services they need,” said Lee, owner of Chin’s Market and Chin’s Kitchen.
Grocery stores also are planning to make sure they have plenty of staple products, including rice, broth and noodles.
Kao Lee, owner of Asia Supermarket at Chestnut and Tulare avenues, said many families in Fresno will be opening their doors to out-of-town relatives and guests. And many will be planning large meals.
“To have more people coming into the store will be good for our business and many others in Fresno,” Lee said. “The general was such an icon to the community that I am sure his funeral will bring in many people to Fresno.”
To help in the planning, officials with Fresno’s visitor and convention bureau have been working with the Vang family to reserve blocks of hotel rooms.
An estimated $250,000 in hotel rooms have been reserved for the weeklong event, said Layla Forstedt, acting CEO of the Fresno-Clovis Convention and Visitors Bureau.
About 25 hotels have agreed to reserve rooms for funeral visitors, including the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, where 50 suites have been set aside, mostly for VIPs and foreign dignitaries.
Members of the royal Lao family are expected to attend Vang’s funeral.
“We feel honored to be able to help,” said Sharon Sweeney, sales manager at the Radisson.
Main Source: Fresno Bee
By Robert Rodriguez / The Fresno Bee