Largest Hmong New Year Celebration Draws Thousands In Fresno

The largest annual Hmong New Year celebration in the United States, the Hmong International New Year, kicked off Monday in Fresno, California, to recognize the holiday and promote Hmong culture.

Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly, the nation’s first Hmong American mayor, told NBC News that the event — which began in 1999, and which includes food booths, cultural performances, craft vendors and competitions — attracts nearly 200,000 attendees each year.

According to the event’s organizers, Hmong American communities celebrate their New Year’s festival on different weekends from October through December, culminating into the final festival in Fresno.

“How Hmong Americans celebrate the New Years have changed over the past 40 years,” Seng Alex Vang, a writing and Asian American studies professor, told NBC. “Today it is also a huge economic opportunity for small Hmong family businesses and vendors as well as a huge economic boost for the local economy.”

The Hmong have a population of about 260,000 in the United States, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.