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'It's grown exponentially': AANHPI Heritage festival draws largest crowd yet with new CPKC Stadium venue

AANHPI Heritage Festival
Posted at 12:31 PM, May 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-12 15:57:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Every year, Kansas City's Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Festival is hosted during AANHPI Heritage Month.

This year's event on Saturday drew more people than ever at a new venue: CPKC Stadium.

Jackie Nguyen, owner of Cafe Cà Phê, Kansas City's first Vietnamese coffee shop, is a force within the city's AANHPI community.

Nguyen's pride in her ancestry is what pushed her to create an annual heritage festival three years ago.

Jackie Nguyen
Jackie Nguyen

“I started this because there was no celebration for us here citywide," she said.

Before this year's heritage festival, Nguyen hosted the event near her coffee shop in Columbus Park. After doubling the budget, creating new sponsor partnerships and inviting more local — and predominately Asian-owned — vendors, the festival moved to CPKC Stadium for 2024.

“I’m so excited, I’m so grateful, I’m so thankful to the Kansas City community," Nguyen said.

Approximately 4,000 people registered for tickets and by 2 p.m. — with three hours of the event left — over 2,000 people had stopped by. Organizers said attendees came from out of town for the event.

“It’s so important to do this celebration in Kansas City because there’s not much representation here; there is an amazing community that exists, but there is no support," Nguyen said. "There’s no community center here in Kansas City, there is no Chinatown here in Kansas City."

But, on Saturday, there was representation because of the event.

“I am so proud to be Filipino-Chinese American today, it’s wonderful,” said Richi Ramos, a local singer-songwriter.

Ramos debuted their new single, "Madness," on the festival stage.

“I love that there is a space here for all people to feel safe, but also the AANHPI community to come and be and exist, be themselves," Ramos said.

Nguyen wants the festival to be a message to the city.

"We just want the city to know that the Asian community deserves so much more than just an event, so much more than a month, that we deserve a space here in Kansas City," she said.