Little Saigon, Westwood and Solar Valley put their identities front-and-center whereas inviting the remainder of Denver over to celebration


What do Little Saigon, Westwood and Solar Valley have in frequent? They’re all important pockets of tradition within the cloth of Denver’s westside. Solar Valley is taken into account essentially the most numerous neighborhood in Denver with over 30 totally different languages spoken within the small space. Westwood is a majority Latino neighborhood and Little Saigon is a stronghold of Denver’s Asian inhabitants.

What in addition they have in frequent is a historical past of under-investment and a present hazard of potential displacement. With West Denver’s speedy development and alter, comes larger rents and fewer obtainable house. Town describes Westwood as an “at-risk” neighborhood for displacement and the entire of Solar Valley is at present being redeveloped by the Denver Housing Authority and will doubtlessly be concerned with extra improvement surrounding Empower Discipline.

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Grupo Fiesta Colorado performs during the Westwood Chile Festival. Sept. 10, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Residents of West Denver neighborhoods really feel they’ve been the forgotten portion of the town and now improvement is heading to their doorstops.

Now, they’re placing higher efforts into activating unused areas to create festivals highlighting the neighborhood’s residents, companies and tradition. Therefore the West Denver Rising Initiative and the next Denver Worldwide Marketplaces collection.

West Denver Rising is a collaboration between the Solar Valley neighborhood by the Solar Valley Kitchen + Neighborhood Middle, Little Saigon, Westwood’s BuCu West Growth Affiliation, and the Denver Streets Partnership. The purpose is to work collectively to make sure the neighborhoods keep genuine and stay a spot for his or her respective heritages.

Royals, the k-pop dance group, performs at the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.
Michelle Lapid preps her daughter, Alyssa, before they and the rest of the Melody Bella World Dance group perform at the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.

“They’re fairness communities that historically have been under-invested in and haven’t acquired as a lot consideration from the town, however they’re additionally these superb multicultural neighborhoods which might be such a price to the town,” stated Jill Locantore, government director of the Denver Streets Partnership.

Grants from the Colorado Well being Basis and CDOT helped fund all 5 occasions. That included the Lunar New Yr Celebration, using the parking numerous the Far East Middle and the Asia Middle, and the Solar Valley Rising Viaduct Evening Market, which remodeled the darkish car parking zone beneath the West Colfax Viaduct.

The Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.
Georgia Rising and her daughters, Hattie (5) and Willa (3) enjoy the Westwood Chile Festival. Sept. 10, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

This previous weekend closed out the Market collection with Westwood’s twelfth annual Chile Fest alongside Morrison Highway and the second annual Mid-Autumn Pageant, additionally held within the Far East Middle.

In contrast to the Solar Valley Market, Chile Fest and the Mid-Autumn Fest have been already established occasions.

However in line with Mimi Luong, proprietor of the Far East Middle on South Federal and Julie Casault, BuCu’s Director of Outreach, having additional serving to fingers makes throwing these occasions a lot simpler.

“Our neighborhoods have been right here for a very long time however they haven’t been acknowledged a lot,” Luong stated. “Now having this partnership, it offers us an additional enhance the place we are able to repeatedly host extra occasions all year long with the identical momentum and concepts. It makes individuals extra conscious of the Little Saigon District and it offers us an opportunity to share our tradition, our traditions. Westwood may be very numerous and so is Solar Valley and I really feel like these occasions are saying,’Hey, issues are taking place over right here.’”

Mimi Luong stands amid the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.
Andre Wilson and Treyvon Harris hang out at the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.

Luong and her household have hosted numerous celebrations for Asian holidays for many years together with Lunar New Yr however these occasions have been on a smaller scale. Luong stated she started working with Denver Streets Partnership when the group was referred to as Stroll Denver. As soon as Luong related with Locantore, she was in a position to broaden Lunar New Yr to the Asia Middle additional alongside South Federal. Locantore and DSP additionally helped jump-start the Mid-Autumn Fest in 2019.

The identical goes for Chile Fest.

Westwood Chile Fest was based again in 2010 by BuCu West, a nonprofit devoted to supporting native companies and cultural organizations alongside the Morrison hall. Since its inception the occasion has gone from a single park celebration to a full on block celebration, using an excellent chunk of Morrison.

Round 2017, BuCu started working with DSP to make Morrison Highway a safer hall and once more, to make the most of the road for extra than simply automobile visitors. With the initiative, BuCu now has extra organizations to assist throw much more occasions alongside the hall.

Mayoral candidate Ean Thomas Tafoya muches his way through the Westwood Chile Festival's annual chile-eating contest. Sept. 10, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Josh Chow pulls ahead in a moon cake-eating contest at the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.

“In creating this initiative, as a substitute of specializing in one road, we’re all utilizing our totally different expertise to help each other and hopefully drawing bigger consideration by the multi-sponsored occasions and shared media assets,” Casault stated.

There’s additionally the shared expertise. Casault stated BuCu’s government director Jose Esparza ensures that the Chile Fest is full of Westwood distributors.

“He gained’t even let individuals from exterior get the contract,” Casault stated.

That’s additionally West Denver Rising’s different objective, to advertise native companies, whether or not they’re nonetheless working concepts or have full blown brick and mortar places. The initiative is giving native distributors an avenue, the place at different non-community occasions, they might not be given the identical alternative.

Donicio Hernandez shrivels up in the face of the things he ate in the Westwood Chile Festival's annual chile-eating contest. Sept. 10, 2022.
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Blaire Caldwell (left) and Michael Dinh chow down during a moon cake-eating contest at the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.

“That’s the purpose. To help small companies, entrepreneurs and all kinds of distributors. Not simply meals and crafts but additionally photographers and folks on the again ends,” stated Lindsay Miller, the special-projects supervisor at Solar Valley Kitchen + Neighborhood Middle. “I feel that neighborhood side makes the occasions higher. It’s not generic. When individuals come, they’ll really feel the authenticity.”

Miller added at lots of the westside occasions, of us will see the identical distributors and that’s on objective.

After a scorching warmth wave, the weekend swept in a cool breeze and rain. That didn’t cease Denverites from exhibiting as much as each Chile Fest and the Mid-Autumn Fest, which have been a couple of blocks aside.

All kinds of food for sale at the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.

“It’s stunning, final 12 months it was tremendous duper sizzling and this 12 months it’s teetering on fall,” stated Diego Florez-Arroyo, Chile Fest’s MC. “Regardless of the climate individuals are right here and that’s superior. Individuals are staying robust, they’re holding their seat, they introduced their blanket, they introduced their rain jacket. In order that’s superior neighborhood engagement to see.”

New to Chile Fest this 12 months was the Salsa de Westwood Competitors in partnership with Hecho en Westwood. Over 51 individuals signed as much as exhibit their salsa-making expertise. There was additionally the chile-eating contest. Casault stated she searched far and huge for the spiciest peppers and as soon as once more Ean Tafoya, a present Denver mayoral candidate, gained the competitors.

Mayoral candidate Ean Thomas Tafoya wins the Westwood Chile Festival's annual chile-eating contest. Sept. 10, 2022.
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At-large City Council candidate Will Chan digs into a moon cake-eating contest at the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.

Over on the Mid-Autumn Fest, of us braved the rain as effectively for Asian street-style meals that included steamed buns full of Chinese language BBQ and bubble tea. The pageant is much like Thanksgiving, the place individuals have fun gathering the harvest, giving thanks and praying for a bountiful 12 months. Luong began Denver’s pageant in 2019 but it surely was on hiatus as a result of pandemic. This 12 months it was a two-day occasion.

Luong stated the pageant can be referred to as the Moon or Mooncake Pageant, so it’s solely proper that they’d a mooncake-eating competitors. A mooncake is a thick Asian pastry, usually full of a candy bean paste. Josh Chow downed a mooncake in regards to the dimension of his head in about 10 minutes.

Q Arora and Krystal Bordner moved right here from Austin a few 12 months in the past and the fest was their first style of tradition within the metropolis. Arora heard about it on-line and was stunned by the turnout and the wealthy cultural elements such because the Polyensian dancing.

“This was a beautiful shock within the metropolis,” Bordner stated.

Arora added, “We don’t actually know the place to seek out these pockets of range and issues which might be exterior the scope of typical Denver like hipster events however the vary of meals, dances. This might’ve not been a actuality two years in the past with COVID and we’re again booming. And the turnout speaks for itself. Individuals are so enthusiastic about what these native small companies have to supply.”

Krystal Bordner (left) and Q Arora hang out at the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.
Turkey legs for sale at the Far East Center's second Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Westwood, Sept. 10, 2022.

Trang Bulawa, one the MCs on the fest and board member of the Vietnamese Neighborhood of Colorado, stated she was glad individuals turned out to help the tradition on even when it was wet and frigid.

“The collaboration is gorgeous,” Bulawa stated. “Sure, that is an Asian occasion however the truth that now we have different non-Asian teams supporting us is big. We’re a neighborhood, not simply an Asian neighborhood, however each ethnicity, each race, each tradition inside the westside is supporting each other.”

The initiative is hoping because the collaboration continues to develop, so will the occasions in each dimension and frequency. Solar Valley is seeking to make the evening market underneath the viaduct a everlasting yearly fixture. Morrison Highway continues to be an lively house, internet hosting occasions just like the Frida Kahlo Celebration and Veggie Viernes. Casault stated Chile Fest could in the future develop into a two-day affair. Luong stated she’d prefer to see the Far East Middle and all of Denver host extra evening markets that includes native distributors much like the markets in California and Japan.

It’s simply one other option to spotlight native companies and the varied areas of Denver that some Denverites could not learn about.

Rebecca Tauber contributed to this report.

Clarification: This text was up to date to notice that the Colorado Well being Basis additionally helped fund the occasions. 

Jonathan (4) stays dry under a poncho at the Westwood Chile Festival. Sept. 10, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

 

 



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