The largest Vietnamese heritage festival on the East Coast is elebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend.
The Plaza at Tysons Corner Center (7901 Tysons One Place) will be alight with the lively VietFest cultural celebration from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 13. Vietfest is organized by the National Organization for Vietnamese American Leadership of Greater Washington, D.C. (NOVAL-DC).
Celebrated yearly, VietFest returned last year to its largest turnout of over 30,000 attendees after taking a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, its Facebook event page says.
The free, outdoor extravaganza includes cultural performances, a lion dance, a martial arts presentation, a traditional áo dài fashion show, crawfish and pho eating competitions, local food vendors, and beauty pageants. VietFest will also host its fifth annual talent show at 2 p.m. on Saturday, where participants will showcase their talents in hopes of winning a grand prize of $1,000.
To commemorate 10 years of VietFest — from its humble origins in a George Mason University parking lot to a sprawling two-day festival in one of Virginia’s largest shopping malls — the festival will have increased programming and “more food vendors than ever before,” says Bobby Ly, director of VietFest and co-president of NOVAL-DC.
Ly noted that this year’s celebration will feature a new heritage wall filled with photos of VietFest throughout the last 10 years.
“We usually have a heritage wall that’s like 30 feet long with pictures of the Vietnamese community from 1975 to now and all their contributions to the United States,” Ly said. “But this year, our heritage wall is different. It’s going to be…all pictures of Vietfest through all the 10 years that we’ve been doing it. And for me, I’m very proud of that and I think that’s going to be the highlight.”
Ly attributes VietFest’s smashing success over the last decade to its inclusivity, saying that it “stands out” from other festivals in the area because it’s “open to all communities” to participate, even if it’s primarily known as a Vietnamese festival.
“Now going into our 10th year, it’s going very strong,” Ly said. “The whole reason why VietFest was started was to help bring the community together, not just the Vietnamese community, but all other communities…Because every time we have the festival, not only Vietnamese show up, it’s all Asians, all other communities coming out.”
Looking ahead to the weekend, Ly optimistically predicts clear skies and high turnout, reminding visitors that they can always cool off from the heat inside the mall, where VietFest-affiliated vendors will be selling snacks like popcorn.
“The weather looks like it’s going to be nice, no rain,” Ly said. “It’s going to be a little bit hot, but the area where Tysons is, the buildings give us a lot of shade, and we have a little wind, so perfect weather. I have no doubt that we’re going to have a lot of people.”
Though last year set a high bar with its record attendance, Ly is determined to surpass those numbers and continue the momentum built up from 2022.
“I’m hoping that we could do much better this year, but last year, all our vendors, they made enough food for two days, but on the first day they sold everything,” Ly said. “Because of last year, I think this year will be even better because now everybody’s hyped up, and everybody knows that there’s gonna be a lot of people, and most importantly, all of these different organizations, all of these communities are promoting VietFest as though it was their own community.”
“So, you know, I think that this year will be phenomenal, and hopefully it will be the best year ever,” Ly continued. “I mean, that would be fitting since it’s our 10-year anniversary.”
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