Dallas-Fort Worth does not lack for spring festivals, but the Thai Culture & Food Festival brings something new. The two-day affair premieres May 24-25 at the Buddhist Center of Dallas.
Organized by the Thai Community Center of North Texas, the festival's goal is to share Thai culture beyond the local Thai-American community, says spokeswoman Teresa Nguyen.
"Festivals are not new to the Thai community," she says. "There are two annual festivals — the Songkran Festival celebrating the Thai New Year in April, and the Loy Krathong, or the Light Festival, which happens in the fall. Those have been observed mostly by the Thai community.
Throughout the weekend, attendees can expect Thai dance troupes and boxing matches, Thai art for sale, and food from all four regions of Thailand.
"The organizers hope this will open it up to everybody and expand awareness of Thai culture, religion, food and products."
The festival begins with a parade and opening ceremony at 11 am on May 24. Throughout the weekend, attendees can expect entertainment such as dance troupes; Thai boxing matches; Thai art for sale; food-carving presentations; and Thai food from all four regions of the country, including vegan offerings, prepared by more than 200 Thai-owned restaurants in North Texas.
The Thai community in Dallas-Fort Worth began to coalesce about 30 years ago and estimates its size to be more than 25,000 people. Its biggest inroad into culture is through food, namely Thai restaurants. The community has several Buddhist temples located in Dallas, Keller, Irving and Arlington. There's a Thai Chamber of Commerce and a cultural center at the Buddhist Center of Dallas.
"The Buddhist Center is the heart of the Thai community," Nguyen says. "It's where they hold events as well as services on Sunday."
Those Sunday services include a kind of street fair from 1 to 3 pm, where vendors ply, among other things, a uniquely homey style of Thai food that will also be available at this event.
"It's women and men who have been making Thai food for 20 years," Nguyen says. "There's a loyal audience that comes every Sunday. It's so cheap, and the food is so good. I almost don't want people to know about it. It's been one of those cool little secrets."
The center just built a brand-new temple, which will be open to the public for the first time, with guided tours. "It's significant not just for religious purposes but also for the art," Nguyen says. "You have to see it. It has a mural filled with intricacy. It's beautiful."
Proceeds from the festival support the Buddhist Center of Dallas and Thai Community Center of North Texas. Established in 1998, TCCNT's mission is to preserve Thai culture, religion and tradition through educational training, counseling and informational programs, with specific emphasis on the needs of youths, the elderly and the poor.
The Thai Culture & Food Festival runs May 24, 11 am-9 pm, and May 25, 10 am-6 pm. Admission and parking are free. For more information, visit the festival website.