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Monday, July 18, 2011

Milwaukee Welcomes Chinese Culture Fest

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“We wanted to build upon the current culture and diversity program of the city's ethnic festivals,” says Milwaukee Chinese Community Center (MCCC) President Peng Gao, of the inaugural Chinese Culture Fest, a two-day celebration of Chinese culture held July 23-24 at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Admission to the museum will get you into the festival, which complements the museum's “Summer of China” program, featuring “The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City” exhibition. Visitors will have an opportunity to enjoy a number of performances and demonstrations, sample authentic Chinese dishes and browse in the marketplace. Though the MCCC has hosted large events before, this is the organization's first festival, explains Gao, who is hopeful that the success of this summer's celebration could help Chinese Culture Fest transition into an annual event.

How did the MCCC connect with the Milwaukee Art Museum?


We had this idea almost a year and a half ago. We did look down other avenues, but because the art museum was planning to have the “Treasures from the Forbidden City” exhibit, we happened to connect with (Milwaukee Art Museum Director) Dan Keegan… and once we talked, everything just fell squarely together.

What were the most difficult challenges you encountered in the planning stages?


The No. 1 challenge was to believe in ourselves and the community, that we could do this—to have others believe in us and start contributing time and resources. This is an all-volunteer-based community program, so getting the resources was the toughest challenge.

What types of performances and vendors can visitors expect?


In terms of performances, we have lined up acrobat performances, dance and musical performances. The predominant programs are presented with no language barriers. In terms of vendors, in addition to the traditional Chinese shopping experience, we have extended our marketplace to include Thai, Malaysian and even Egyptian vendors. A special Chinese brew (prepared by MillerCoors) will also debut at the festival opening day.

How large of a turnout are you anticipating?


We are estimating 10,000 to 20,000 visitors.

Can you describe the Dragon Boat Race?


The Dragon Boat Race will actually happen in the south lagoon next to Discovery World. Each boat will have 22 rowers, to work toward a common goal. It's a great team-building activity.

For more information, visit www.chineseculturefest.org.