Asian Village was unveiled at the New York State Fair for first time this year. The event features vendors, performers and food.

Tai Shaw described the message he wanted to deliver by bringing the Asian Village to the New York State Fair: “Breaking through the bamboo ceiling.” 

Shaw, the owner of CNY Uniforms Plus and a Vietnamese refugee, brought the Asian Village to the fair to increase visibility of Asian communities across the state and particularly in Central New York. 

“This is our first time, we have to make this big or go home,” Shaw said.

For the first time ever, the fair will feature the Asian Village, which will highlight Asian cultures. It will include performers from all backgrounds — Filipino, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Korean, Pacific Islander and Chinese, among others — dressed in traditional clothing. Asian Village will also feature dance groups, multicultural fashion shows and live music. 

The opening event held on Wednesday featured a ribbon cutting and a visit from Gov. Kathy Hochul, as well as city and county officials. Shortly after, Shaw led the crowd of supporters to the stage to watch live entertainment. 

The Asian Village will run through Aug. 26 and will have different performers each day. 

Beyond the stage, vendors sold food, clothing, jewelry and one stall offered henna tattoos. Some of the food vendors included Ji-Woo’s Korean Seoul Food, Ma Pow Coconuts, Turkish Baklava, and Habibi’s Mediterranean Food.

The Fil-Am Community of Upstate New York shared Filipino culture through fashion and festive folk dance styles like abaruray and itik-itik.

“It’s tremendously significant for our community,”said Ebeneza Oliverio, a registered nurse and living benefits specialist. “…And for this to be available, it will show our community who we are. Even though it is just presentation and probably food, we contribute to diversity.” 

The fashion show highlighted classic Filipino garments worn by men and women in the early 19th century.

“We’re happy to be a part of it and to be invited and now we have a stage to present it. Us Filipinos, we love sharing our culture,” said Caroline Calimlim, substitute teacher. 

The Asian Village includes other cultures within Syracuse’s American community, Shaw said.

Pie Manirarora, a guitarist from Rwanda, performed a musical duet with his wife Rachel Mukahirwa, as their children sat in the audience cheering them on. A group of dancers performed a traditional Chinese lion dance, where performers dressed in costumes with animated depictions of large animals.

Tamara Pulley, of Tamara’s Models and Talent, organized the Asian Village fashion show, which  featured over a dozen multigenerational models of diverse backgrounds, wearing Asian attire.

Pulley, born in Vietnam and raised in Syracuse by her adopted Irish family, said the Asian Village has helped her reconnect with her culture. She fled Vietnam at 2 years old during the Vietnam War because the country was unsafe for her as a biracial child, she said. 

“I’ve never worn a Vietnamese dress before and this year I went to a temple, I wore my dress,” Pulley said.

She said her 20-year connection with Shaw has helped her be reintroduced to Vietnamese culture she lost when she had to flee the country. 

“This is big for us, it’s not just about Vietnamese, it’s about Filipino, Korean, Japanese; everyone coming together and sticking together as a community,” Pulley said. 

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