Hmong American Day Festival in Appleton inspires confidence through culture

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) – Today is Hmong American Day, May 14. Across states like Wisconsin and Minnesota, it’s a chance 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 showcase what our culture really is to other people,” Mai Moua Lee, coach of a statewide Hmong dance group, emphasized. “It’s something the youth can also take on as leadership roles and they can learn sisterhood.”

Mai’s Hmong dance troop with a total of 12 members and a coach draws performers from all over the state including Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Milwaukee.

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

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

To compete in Miss Hmong Wisconsin, you have to be 18 years or older, be of Hmong descent, and live in Wisconsin. Plus, be able to give back to your community through service hours. Malida, this year’s winner, is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and is studying nursing. She has worked in the healthcare field since she was 16 and would eventually like to be a healthcare manager potentially in the area.

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 enjoying the sunshine and appreciating some of the beautiful costumes on both pageant queens and dancers.

“These outfits, they are based off a Hmong clan. It’s called the Striped Clan,” Mai shared about her dancers’ performance outfits on Saturday. “On the sleeves it has a lot of stripes. That’s the main point of the outfit.”

These Hmong women say that being in a dance group or participating in pageants has helped them network and build self-confidence.

“I really encourage our youth to really go and actually compete,” Malida said. “I believe that this is something that will help us be successful and 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 May 29.

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