APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – A park in Appleton turned into the backdrop of a very important photo shoot.

“It’s a great day to take pictures together there’s no other place we’d rather be than here,” said Chee Thao a Hmong elder from Menasha.

She’s one of about a dozen Hmong Elders at Scheig Gardens in Appleton dressed up in traditional Hmong clothing taking part in the photo shoot. It’s part of the New Hmong Professionals’ goal to not only preserve Hmong history and culture but to celebrate it as well.

I think as humans we want to preserve as much as we can about who we are,” said Long Vue who is the executive director of the New Hmong Professionals.

The Hmong are an ethnic group from Laos, Vietnam, and parts of China. They fought bravely on the side of the United States during the Vietnam War. When the war ended and Communist troops took over their country, many Hmong fled their country fearing retribution from the Communists whom they fought during the war.

According to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau survey, there are about 58,000 Hmong people in Wisconsin.

The New Hmong Professionals also set up events where elders can garden with younger Hmong. The idea is for different generations to connect and for the older Hmong to pass down their stories about their history and culture to the younger generations.

The Hmong elders told Local 5 they plant things like squash and cucumbers which are crops native to their homeland in Southeast Asia. It’s another way they try to preserve their culture.

“In our culture, the elders hold everything together the wisdom, the cultural practice,” said Vue.

Vue said talking to the Hmong elders is like reading an encyclopedia or doing a google search only better.