OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV)-The Hmong National Labor Day Festival is back in Oshkosh, an annual celebration of Hmong culture.
The Hmong are an ethnic group from Southeast Asia. In the late 1960s when the Vietnam War spread into Laos, the United States recruited the Hmong to help them fight communist troops in the country. When Communist troops took over Laos and the Americans left the conflict, many Hmong became refugees in their own country and fled to places like the United States for safety.
Wisconsin has the third largest Hmong population in the country behind Minnesota and California.
One of those Hmong families that fled to the United States was Jay Her’s parents.
“They left Laos went to Thailand as refugees, and prayed that they would come to the United States,” says Her.
Her says his parents arrived in the United States with nothing, built up their small business Hmong Family LLC, and on Saturday are in Oshkosh selling some of their merchandise.
They sell traditional Hmong clothing and toys.
“It was a lot of grinding, coming from nothing and then making something out of nothing,” says Her.
Organizers don’t have an exact number but estimate that between 8,000 and 10,000 people came to the festival on Saturday afternoon alone. The festival continues Sunday.
The festival is a celebration of Hmong sports and culture.
“Our culture is disappearing and by doing these events we can bring it back,” says President and Chairperson of Hmong National Labor Day Festival Mee Yang.
Yang was born in Laos and came over to the United States when she was eight years old to escape persecution.
“We were scared, I was scared, we didn’t know what was going to be ahead of us and we took a big risk,” says Yang.
She says the festival is an opportunity to immerse herself in the culture of the country she left behind when she was a kid.
The Hmong’s food, clothing, and native language all on display at the festival.
“It’s good to know your roots where you come from,” says Her.
The event also includes a COVID-19 vaccine clinic and shots will also be available tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.