By MAI HOANG
Photos by Thinh Nguyen
ST. PAUL (Feb. 25, 2012) — The first Taste of Little Mekong event was held Saturday at Mai Village Restaurant at Western and University Avenues in St. Paul.
The event is the work of the Asian Economic Development Association and members of the Asian businesses in the concentrated ethnic corridor of the Frogtown and Midway area. The event attracted business and civic leaders in addition to many other supporters in the arts, education and nonprofit sectors.
Taste of Little Mekong was designed to celebrate the Asian cultures and flavors, along with exhibits and presentations, cultural shows and sample of ethnic Asian food. Its mission is to improve the area at University Avenue and Western as an welcoming destination for visitors and residents; to support and promote businesses; to share cultural traditions and activities; and to create a living, breathing, colorful district for all to enjoy.
St. Paul Mayor of Mr. Chris Coleman expressed his recognition and appreciation toward Asian business owners for making the area successful over a span of three decades. He emphasized the Avenue as the home to some of many social service agencies that serve ethnic Asian immigrant and refugee communities. The organizations that add permanence to the neighborhoods include Hmong American Partnership, Lao Family Community, Vietnamese Social Services of Minnesota, Center for Hmong Arts and Talent and many others.
Coleman read the proclamation he signed to designate Feb. 25, 2012 as Little Mekong Day. He then joined the business owners for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
A variety of cultural shows followed including Hung Vuong Dragon Dance Team, the Chang-Korean Drum Group and Korean traditional dances the Chang-mi Dancers.
Lao American Nitaya Panemalaythong was on hand as the new Miss Minnesota USA 2012. It is the first time in state history that an Asian American won the Miss MN-USA pageant.
Panemalaythong said she would like for more people to visit and shop The Little Mekong district.
Participating organizations and businesses in the event included food from Mai Villagem Tay Ho, Bangkok Thai Deli., Ha tien, Thai Cafe, Bangkok Cuisine, and Litthe Szechuan. Some of them followed the event with tours of Eastern, Central and Western of the main intersection Western/University.
Little Mekong is an initiative of the Asian Economic Development Association, whose mission is to cultivate vibrant, diverse communities
by creating economic opportunities.
The event coincides with efforts to encourage business during the start of the 2012 construction season and as light rail construction continues along the Central Corridor. The hope is that this future train connection between St. Paul and Minneapolis will bring more traffic to local businesses.
Two of these efforts include the “Taste of Little Mekong” event and the 2012 Central Corridor Coupon Book.
The Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) works with the Asian-owned and operated businesses affected by the upcoming light rail construction. AEDA has recently branded the stretch of University Ave in St. Paul where Frogtown meets Summit-University and historic Rondo neighborhoods “Little Mekong.”
Home to some of the most critically acclaimed Southeast Asian businesses in the Twin Cities, including Mai Village Vietnamese Restaurant, Ha Tien Grocery Store and Thai Café, Little Mekong serves as a destination for Minnesotans and tourists alike who are looking for an authentic cultural experience.
The new 2012 Central Corridor Coupon Book features offers from 32 businesses along the Corridor. The book includes deals from businesses in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. The coupon books will be available for free Cub Foods – Midway, Western Bank on University Avenue, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Midway Chamber of Commerce and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce starting Friday, February 24.
The Discover Central Corridor Campaign was created by the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce to connect the community to businesses impacted by light rail construction. Each sector contains unique shopping, eating, and great American small-business districts that make the Twin Cities’ main artery great.