Labor Day weekend signals the ending days of summer and for many kids, the final days of freedom and the coming of the inevitable school year. Fortunately for the Hmongs, we celebrate another festival similar to the July 4th tournament held in Minnesota, but on a lower scale and this time in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
This is a time where Hmong-Wisconsinites unite to celebrate the ending days of summer and make way for the approaching New Years at the Winnebago County Park in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
In association to this event, it would draw hundreds of Hmong competitors from Minnesota to challenge their Wisconsin neighbors in a variety of popular sports including: soccer, flag football, volleyball, kato and topspin. So, with the attraction of the Hmong athletes draws the fans and spectators from Minnesota that would make the 4 to 5 long and strenuous hours of driving to Oshkosh to attend this grand event.
This is a “blast from the past.” In olden times, Hmong-Laotians were scattered in tribal communities and commuting to each village meant an arduous adventure of a few hours to a few days by feet. Communities then, usually consists of a close knit kinship of immediate family members to cousins and friends. As this was typical in most villages, many would carry the same surname and to courtship with the same name was a taboo to the Hmongs. So, because of this very notion a system was concocted to get young adults together between villages during the ending days of harvest.
In present day times this is better known as our traditional Hmong New Year’s Festival. Just like the old days, we now have these gatherings between cities and townships, ever-alternating so one event won’t be on the same weekend as the others. And so, the tradition still lives on and this day marks the first event of the coming New Year.
In addition to celebration of the approaching New Year we also celebrate our Hmong Veteran’s Day. As a tradition in the United States of America, due to the “Secret War in Laos,” we have Hmong veterans in America. This weekend also signifies a time to celebrate their Veteran’s Day and pay tributes to their fallen comrades. As a result, the commencement of this grand event starts with columns and rows of Lao Veterans in the introductory ceremony that would highlight General Vang Pao’s walkthrough as the supporter in addition to his sponsorship of this magnificent event.
You could then take notice of the live performances of the traditional courtship of “tossing of the ball” and then to the live traditional Hmong dance competition that is held on stage for all to view. There were a few individuals in the traditional Hmong attire on both days, but because of the hot and humid weather this probably swayed a lot of people from wearing these traditional clothing.
After the introductory ceremony we made our way towards the food vendors and like always, this is the best part of any festival. You get to taste the assortment of traditional Hmong cooking from the egg-rolls, fried chicken quarter leg and thigh, fried or barbequed Hmong sausages, fried tilapia or white bass stuffed with Thai peppers, papaya salad and the traditional dessert of tapioca sweetened with sugar and coconut milk.
After our luncheon with the boss, our next stop was our assignments for the trip–to keep a watchful eye on the on-going tournament held for these 2 days. I was at awe to see the thousands of Hmongs in attendance to this event, plus in amazement to see hundreds or maybe even closer to the thousand of Hmong athletes competing in this tournament.
The tournaments were the main attraction for most visitors this weekend in attendance to this event. Soccer and flag football owned the majority of the crowd; even though flag football was segregated from the concentration of the event. It felt like a 10-15 minute walk and was about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile away from the main concentration of the event.
Because of the short length of this 2 day event the flag football event was cut short after the disappearance of the sun and without the day light the last four elite teams settled for splitting the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. X-Conz and IDK from St. Paul, MN settled for taking the 1st place by splitting the 1st and 2nd place prize while Nemesis from Wisconsin and Midcoast from St. Paul, MN ended up splitting the 3rd place prize.
On the other side of the spectrum with the female flag football teams the placing were as follows: 1st place going to Blitz, 2nd to Lady-X, and finally 3rd place going to Black Widows.
Other Event Placing
1) Hmong USA
3) Hmong FC/Friendship United – split 3rd
3) KO/Defy – split 3rd
Straying away from our work, I couldn’t help but notice the next growing generations of Hmong-Americans. Just like myself, during my younger years, I would wonder through the crowds, playing, and having a frolicsome time with friends as well as new acquaintances not wanting the day to end. This nostalgic moment is encapsulated in my mind as time seems to stop for just a few minutes and thoughts of how long this tradition would stay with us going towards the unknown future. I guess all we can do is take the initiative to keep the tradition alive for the future, so we won’t lose this long tradition that we’ve kept up since settling in the United States of America.
We at Hmoodle had a blast at this event and would love to see our people again soon in the future coming events. We would like to congratulate all who participated in the event in addition to the teams that was triumphant during this weekend of competition, so until next time we’ll see you again.