Hmong American Day festival in Appleton inspires confidence through culture

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) — Today is Hmong American Day, May 14. In states like Wisconsin and Minnesota, it is an opportunity to honor Hmong history and their contributions to this country. Especially through music and traditional dances.

“Dancing is a way to express our culture on stage and show what our culture is really about to other people,” said Mai Moua Lee, coach of a statewide Hmong dance group. “It’s something young people can also take on as leaders and they can learn about brotherhood.”

Mai’s Hmong dance troupe, made up of 12 total members and a coach, attracts performers from across the state, including Green Bay, Oshkosh and Milwaukee.

“Dancing has always been a talent that is part of Hmong culture,” said Miss Hmong Wisconsin 2022 Malida Chang. “Dance expresses our stories and our music to the ear.”

The annual Miss Hmong Wisconsin pageant also brings together young women, like Malida, who lives in Appleton but travels the state for events like Saturday’s American Hmong Festival.

To participate in Miss Hmong Wisconsin, you must be 18 or older, of Hmong descent, and live in Wisconsin. Plus, be able to give back to your community with Hours of Service. Malida, this year’s winner, is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh studying nursing. She has worked in the health field since the age of 16 and would eventually like to become a health manager in the region.

the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region said Appleton was actually the first city in Wisconsin to proclaim Hmong American Day on May 14 in 2015. Celebrating Hmong American Day in Appleton meant soaking up the sun and enjoying some of the beautiful costumes of the pageant queens and dancers.

“These outfits, they are based on a Hmong clan. It’s called the Striped Clan,” Mai explained of her dancers’ performance outfits on Saturday. “On the sleeves there are a lot of stripes. This is the main point of the outfit.

These Hmong women say that being part of a dance group or taking part in competitions has helped them to network and gain self-confidence.

“I really encourage our young people to really go out there and compete,” Malida said. “I believe this is something that will help us succeed and be future leaders in the future.”

More cultural traditions will be shared in two weeks at the Oshkosh Hmong National Memorial Day Festival May 28 and 29.

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