The Tet Festival celebrating Vietnamese Lunar New Year wasn’t as big of a production as we normally attend. It was quaint and there were some nice touches, but fundamental disorganization meant we missed most of the events.
Our Review of the Tet Festival – Orange County
There are many Lunar New Year festivals for various cultures; this year we attended the Vietnamese Tet Festival at the Orange County Fairgrounds. Lion dancers will be at any festival, but I was primarily interested in taking the boys to the Vietnamese village recreation to see what life was like in the rice patties of another culture.
We arrived right on time for opening ceremonies…which meant we were locked out of the festival and didn’t get to see a thing. Wait…WHAT?! Turns out you had to arrive early to be inside to see the lion dancers and the procession. But because we arrived on time, the entrance line was on hold, and we had to stand there while the procession walked by and performed inside.
As soon as the procession was in, the lines reopened. The lion dancers were still performing inside, but were surrounded by a mob in a narrow alley. So you couldn’t see the dancers at all…but you couldn’t get around either. So basically you couldn’t see the opening ceremonies, you couldn’t see the dancers, and you couldn’t get in to see the rest of the festival either.
Eventually enough angry people badgered a staff member into opening a barred alley so that at least we could get into the rest of the event.
There were various vendors of interest. The Game and Wildlife branch of law enforcement where there…which of course became the boy’s first stop. Anything hands on was a plus too. They were curious about the shrines with incense, so we asked someone to explain to the boys what it meant and why there was fruit left out.
The village was a bit disappointing. I suppose I was expecting more of a reenactment camp, but this was more small displays setup that kids could dabble with, but weren’t particularly educational or engaging. But I’m likely making an unfair comparison to higher budget events we’ve attended, so I don’t want to criticize…just align expectations..
The sun started beating down, and the boys were losing interest fast. Open ceremonies were at noon, so it was definitely lunch time…which meant EVERYONE was sweating in the sun waiting for food. I would have wanted to try something new and authentic, but people were hot and hungry and we went with ramen noodles. Ramen?! Seriously?! But it turns out the boys loved it! They even enjoyed learning to use chopsticks.
About that time the celebratory fireworks went off right on time…but at a location never announced. So everyone went rushing towards the sound, but it was over before the crowds made it. But now that everyone had come running, they were packed in tight again and you couldn’t see the lion dancers performing in a tiny corner unless you were in the front row.
AAAAAND that was it. The boys weren’t going to listen to local choir music or watch toddlers do a martial arts demonstration. Again, these are nice events for the local Vietnamese community, so I’m not trying to be disparaging. I’m just pointing out that it’s not going to be entertaining for a young crowd just learning about the culture.
At this point, the only thing left was the carnival rides. We promised them each ONE ONLY, which we did and left promptly.
It was fine, and I don’t want to belittle the effort that was obviously put into the event, but I felt like I didn’t get to see half of what I wanted because of misinformation or disorganization in the program. If events weren’t held in narrow alleys or tight corners, more people would be able to watch. If event locations were better publicized, people would know where to be.
In order to see the opening ceremonies, you have to arrive early enough to already be inside the event…or you’ll get locked out and miss them.
If you’re attending the OC Fairgrounds, know which GATE your event is being held at. Nothing sucks more than paying for parking, finding a spot, and walking up to the gate to be told you’re in the wrong place.