‘Where did all these people come from?’ A wrap-up on Dumpling Fest 2022

photos Jeremy Shepherd

At dawn Town Centre Park was empty of everything except dogs and the people who walk them.

But sometime between the volunteers reporting at 8 a.m. and the lineups forming at 10:30 a.m., Gina Chong realized last Saturday’s dumpling festival was going to be bigger than she’d anticipated.

For three months she’d been promoting the festival on social media. Several news outlets had also written about the festival. Chong was “optimistically hoping” the festival might draw 10,000 people. However, given their $0 advertising budget, some of her fellow organizers forecast a crowd of 5,000 attendees.

It turned out, they dramatically underestimated the public’s appetite for dumplings.

“Where did all these people come from?” Chong recalls asking as the park filled up.

By the time the vendors were wiping down their counters and packing up whatever leftovers they had that evening, more than 20,000 people had dropped in at the festival, according to Chong.

“The lineups were insane,” she says. “We didn’t expect that at all.”

Some of the food vendors also seemed taken by surprise, Chong says.

“A lot of them had to run back to their restaurants multiple times.”

Speaking to the Dispatch four days after the festival, Chong still sounds a little tired. It was all done through volunteer work, she notes.

“It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” she says.

It got to her point where her children didn’t want to hear the word “dumplings” ever again, Chong says, describing her somewhat hectic schedule over the past three months.

Still, she plans to put on the event again next year.

“We definitely want to make it an annual event,” she says. “We are such a diverse city and community.”

It was about 16 months earlier that Chong was taking a stroll at the park when a woman told her that COVID-19 “came from your country.”

The video went viral and Chong eventually formed the Asian Arts and Culture Society.

Last week’s festival was about assuaging the negative emotions she’d felt about the park.

“Having that incident happen last year, I was really happy to reclaim that park,” she says.

There were donuts and dumplings but there were also artists and more than 100 performers on stage including dragon dancers, lion dancers, Bhangra dancers and K-pop performers.

“At the end of the day, it’s not a food festival,” she says. “There’s more to that festival than just dumplings.”

Related: Pushing back against anti-Asian racism

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