An Event is Born

One rainy Eugene evening in October 1985, Angie Collas-Dean, Ada O. L. Lee, and the late Vern Ho met to discuss an idea. The idea was for an event that they hoped would encourage greater cooperation and familiarity between the diverse populations of Asian-Americans living in the area. Perhaps this could even lead to the emergence of a larger more inclusive community of all Asian nationalities.
Angie, a Filipina-American and president of Eugene’s Commission on Minority Rights at the time, hoped to reach out to influential Asians in the University of Oregon community. This included Peggy Nagae (former assistant dean at the U of O College of Law), Misa Joo, and Hilda Young, all of whom were active community advocates.

ADA LEE

Ada, a Chinese-American, held deep relationships with local businesses and the educational leadership community since the early 1950s. In embracing the diversity that surrounded her, she instilled in her family an appreciation of all cultures. In turn, she wanted to honor her own culture by sharing traditions with the community and encourage future generations to become involved.
Vern, a community activist, Chinese-American leader, and professional communications trainer, felt strongly that the best way to get the Asian community more aware of each other was through an Asian business directory.
Considering the historical conflicts in Asia, the top question was complex: Could they get along well enough to work together? They were driven to make it so.
Angie got to work and persuaded Ken Nagao (a local Japanese-American architect), and Tom Oroyan (a local Filipino-American Architect / recently retired) to join the group. Meanwhile, Vern was able to persuade Sunun Setbonsarng (a Thai-Chinese graduate student who was staying with Hope Pressman) to join.
The six got together at Pressman’s elegant home one evening for dinner. That evening, they discussed and relayed their own unique perspectives on the Asian-American experience. The strong rapport between the members of this diverse group became immediately apparent.
The discussion led to two key points that they could all agree upon.

ANGIE COLLAS-DEAN

KEN & IRENE NAGAO

To raise funds for Vern’s business directory project, they planned an event to replicate an Asian village for the celebration. This would include street entertainment, food, and commercial booths to recreate an authentic Asian experience for the general public. The idea was enthusiastically received by the community and so began the daunting task of bringing the plan to fruition.
On February 16, 1986, the first Oregon Asian Celebration was launched successfully, attracting several hundred attendees. Over the past 30 years (see posters through the years), the event has since evolved from humble beginnings to a cherished institution of the Lane County com-munity. All of the proceeds earned from the event each year go back into the community by way of scholarships and grants provided to other local non-profits.

Yet the event’s success would not be possible were it not for the voluntary efforts of many civic groups, non-profit organizations, and a host of dedicated  individuals such as Ken Nagao and Tony Lum, who co-chaired the event for almost two decades. In fact, the Oregon Asian Celebration is one of the largest volunteer-driven events on the West Coast, attracting thousands of patrons each year. Building on the enduring success of the Oregon Asian Celebration, the organizers now envision the establishment of a cultural center that will serve as a hub to facilitate cross-cultural exchange. The center would offer educational programs, performances, community gatherings, and art shows. Like the Oregon Asian Celebration, born from the minds of a few people, so also can a cultural center become more than a vision. Your continued sup-port, attendance and donations will help make this cultural center become real and an integral part of the Lane County community.

MISA JOO