It has been a long time coming and the 4th of July is finally here. Every year, as a tradition, Hmong people rally as one, in St. Paul, Minnesota to celebrate what is known as the grand Hmong 4th of July tournament.
This event is held on or around the same weekend as the United States of America’s Independence Day. Furthermore, this 2008 year was an advantageous year for this event-as the 4th fell on a Friday-which gives contestants an extra day for resting. So, the commencement of this exhibition took place afterward, on the 5th and 6th of July.
Accessing event history, this is the reported 28th year of this festive event and is considered the largest of its kind. A prestigious event sponsored by the Lao Family Foundation that we view similar to the “Olympic” event, but for the Hmong people.
The grand entrance of this event attracts thousands of Hmongs from all over the nation, including around the world-wherever the Hmongs have resettled from war-torn Laos within the last 3 to 4 decades that has passed.
It’s a time for reacquainting with old friends, as well as family members from outside the state of Minnesota. However, the core purpose of this occasion is to see the thousands of Hmong athletes compete for supremacy, in the popular categories of Hmong sports, in addition to the traditional American sports.
This sporting event, in the past, has predominantly been highlighting soccer, kato, top-spin and volleyball. Ever changing, I’ve seen this sporting event evolved for the future that now includes: flag football, ping-pong, tennis, bowling, golf and basketball. And this is just the beginning, as the tournament will soon flourish with even more assorted sport categories in the future.
Growing up, I’ve seen this event being chiefly dominated by male participants. As years passed, a new vision has been bestowed upon our people; a vision of equality and this new value is infectious. We (Hmong) are now gradually accepting Hmong women athletes in these events. And in turn, granting them their chance to show their individuality on the field of glory.
Every year, soccer is held esteemed as the bread and butter attraction, but instead it has lost the followings of the audience it once had. The soccer field lured many participating teams; however this event is gradually being overshadowed by flag football. I had numerous conversations with soccer players, some, who insist that soccer will continue to be the main focal center of the tournament; but quite the contrary, half of them expressed their intentions of venturing over to flag football in the future.
This year was the year of flag football. The entrance fee has risen from the year before, from $250 to $350. Plus, with so many new teams seeking for a spot in the tournament, the Lao Family foundation had to forfeit some local teams to allow out-of-state teams into the competition. Like the NFL, there were 32 football teams from around the country that participated in this year’s event.
This spectacle sport attracted the majority of the younger crowd, as well as the staffs at Hmoodle. Every year flag football has exponentially grown since its initial introduction in 2002; which includes this year highlighting its sixth anniversary since its establishment into the Hmong tournament.
A brief history of the last 5 years victors are as followed: 1st year in 2002, the title went to Caub Fab from Fresno, CA; 2nd year in 2003, the title went to S.O.S from St. Paul, MN; 3rd year in 2004, the title went to X-Conz from St. Paul, MN; and the last 2 final title for the years 2005 and 2006, were won by Sanstorms from San Diego, CA.
Unbelievable but true, the 2 final teams in the 2008 championship match were from California. Truly, a feat for the defending champs, Sanstorms, who displayed willpower and determination to get back into the finals. Unfortunately, every dog has their day and although they didn’t go down without a fight, Sanstorms finally met their match.
We, at Hmoodle would like to congratulate Lights-Out from Fresno, California, who came to Minnesota and took 1st place in this year’s flag football tournament.
In addition to the sport events, it’s a time to see the Hmong marketplace, a cultural experience on its own. During this celebratory timeframe, the collaboration and partnering of Hmong entrepreneurs congregate, to promote their products and services, as well as entertain patrons inside the meander walls of the marketplace.
My favorite spot during this festive event is under the tarp covered gazebo; all awhile waiting for the food vendor to supply our lunch. I, mainly go for the Hmong sausages with sticky rice and pepper. But, you can’t go wrong with the traditional quarter chicken along with that ever popular spicy papaya salad. You’ve got to be Southeast Asian to understand the goodness of the overdue fish innards in papaya salad, which gives it the unpleasant odor that many find offensive. It’s an acquired taste and not for the fainthearted.
Although it was a long time coming, this event departed as fast as it arrived. The many Hmong family that attended this event covered the McMurray field in St. Paul and from the high turn-out this year, it was a successful one.
We (Hmoodle Staff) had a joyous time at the field and we’ll sit in anticipation again to see another in a year. Until then, we’ll be seeing you on the practice field, as well as the mini-tournaments outside of the Hmong 4th of July tournament.