Rice Festival embraces diversity of Asian culture and supports philanthropy


• What: 7th annual Rice Festival

• When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

• Where: Stone Mountain Park’s Memorial Lawn, 1000 Robert E. Lee Drive, Stone Mountain

• Cost: Free with park entry $10-20

• For more information: Visit aarc-atlanta.org

STONE MOUNTAIN -- Japanese martial arts, Indian dance and Korean taekwondo are just some of the featured performances free to attendees of the seventh annual Rice Festival on Saturday. Located at Stone Mountain Park's Memorial Lawn, the event will include a plethora of Asian ethnic cuisine, as well as games, singers and informational tables.

"It's about us embracing everyone in the Asian community so that they can come together in community spirit," said Carol Moseley, Asian American Resource Center (AARC) Grant Writer. "It's so they can learn about the dynamics of diverse members of their own Asian cultures. Sometimes people are isolated, so hopefully it fixes that."

As an annual fundraising event of the AARC, the 2011 Rice Festival is hoping to raise awareness about the children battling hunger and disease in North Korea. All proceeds of the event will go to buying medicine for these children and sending it to them through a humanitarian organization called ZeroTB, based in South Korea.

"Whatever money we raise through booths or vendors we are going to be using to purchase medicine for children in North Korea because they don't have access to it," Moseley said.

There are 12,000 people expected to attend the Rice Festival, which coincides with Stone Mountain's Pumpkin Festival. In previous years the festival has been in different locations, but Moseley does not think this will affect their attendance levels.

For one reason, at least 10 performances will take place during the festival's six hours. Pyung Yang Ye Sul Ban, a North Korean traditional dance group, will be one of these performances. They are famed for performing around the world, recently in the White House, according to Moseley.

"A young lady who was a refugee formed the group," Moseley said. "They have gone from being in a terribly poor environment to performing around the world."

Other groups performing include: Geet Rung School of Dance, an Indian school that teaches Bollywood and folk styles, Kyudo Renmei Martial Arts, Japanese training based in Georgia, the Emory Vietnamese Student Association, and Sae Han Taekwondo, a South-Korean martial arts studio.

Besides organizing the Rice Festival, the AARC, a nonprofit organization, also raises funds for "social and educational services to metro-Atlanta." It does not limit itself to helping only Asians. In the past 14 years the AARC has served 15,000 patrons of Asian, Hispanic and black backgrounds.

The Rice Festival received its name in symbolic recognition of the security, wealth and health rice traditionally represents in Asian culture.