ST. PAUL — Celebrating 11 years, the annual Dragon Festival honors the Pan Asian and Pacific Islander heritage and spirit of the Twin Cities.
Dragon Festival 2014 will be held July 12 and 13, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on each day at Lake Phalen and Lake Phalen Park, in Saint Paul, Minn. Admission is free to include cultural performances and children’s activities. There is also free parking at nearby lots with shuttle buses to the site — find a map of sites at www.dragonfestival.org.
If you decide to walk to the park, keep in mind that the private Phalen Golf Course surrounding the park is off limits to pedestrian traffic. It is also a safety issue crossing the fairways.
This year Dragon Festival features Jonny Olsen, an American musician who sings Lao music and is also a master of the Lao khaen mouth organ. He is the first foreigner to record and sing an album of Lao music and the first to win a khaen contest.
Jonny was introduced to Lao culture when he worked at a restaurant with Thai and Lao people in California. They used to think he was kind of crazy and a day dreamer because he said one day ‘I will go learn how to play the khaen and sing Lao folk songs’. But Jonny was determined and very serious, Tongdee, a friend from work, took Jonny to his village where he learned from the masters.
Jonny continued to venture out to more villages finding more and more khaen masters to learn from. He learned all the different types of “Lum” styles. He later met a famous singer who taught him how to sing Lao Folk songs.
Jonny’s says it is his calling, his destiny. He loves Lao culture and music as fun and energetic to to hear and dance. He may be white on the outside but inside Jonny is feeling the Lao spirit.a