New year, new venue for Eau Claire’s Hmong community

Celebrations take place in Eau Claire’s Indoor Sports Center


Photo by Kendall Ruchti

Dancers await results of competition Sunday afternoon at Hmong New Year celebration.

A new year came with a new venue for those celebrating the Hmong New Year at the Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center on Saturday Nov. 14 and Sunday Nov. 15.

Signs and brochures said “Nyob zoo xyoo tshiab” or “Happy New Year” at the event, which was the 27th annual celebration in Eau Claire.

Formerly held in the UW-Eau Claire McPhee Physical Education Center, the celebration took place in the Indoor Sports Center Arena.

Eau Claire resident Amy Vang said the new venue offered a better stage for performing.

Another attendee, Megan Herr, Memorial High School student, said she preferred the old location.

“This location is a little small,” she said.

Traditionally lasting for ten days, the Hmong New Year celebrates the end of the rice-harvest season. It also emphasizes giving thanks to ancestors. For Vang and Herr, it has been a part of their fall for as long as they can remember.

Ball tossing, ribbon cutting, cultural performances, as well as singing, dance and fashion competitions were included in the celebration. Some attendees wore traditional Hmong dress while some wore jeans and t-shirts, while others wore a blend of the two.

After entering the arena, the performance stage was to the right. Sounds from announcers and performances emanated throughout the left side where booths were set up to sell goods. Food stands were in the middle with crowds sitting down to enjoy the food.

Herr spoke enthusiastically about the food, saying it’s one part of Eau Claire’s Hmong New Year that has been a constant since she was a little girl.

“This kind of food, on this kind of day,” Herr said. “It’s amazing.”

Each year, Herr said she comes home remembering the size and celebrations of the Eau Claire Hmong community.

Hundreds of attendees of all ages milled around the arena, spending time with old friends while younger kids played games.

Vang attended the celebration with her young son, hoping he learns a lot at these celebrations and “sees as many things as possible, such as his culture and many new things he hasn’t experienced or seen before.”

Groups of costumed kids dressed with bright pinks, greens and deep blues cheered as the dance competition winners were announced.

While festivities had continued until midnight the night before, the event ended at 5 p.m. on Sunday with the closing announcements.