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Asian Festival to raise money for Myanmar and China natural disaster victims

Volunteers at Franklin Park were there early today getting ready for the Asian Festival that's expected to draw in thousands of people. And this year's festival will focus on more than just fun. It will be a fund-raising venue for the natural disaster victims in Myanmar and China.

Sally Paz is trying to figure out how to hang several dozen colorful Philippino lanterns from an outdoor tent at Franklin Park on East Broad Street. Paz, a volunteer, is helping get the park ready for this weekend's Asian Festival where more than 100,000 people are expected to attend.

Her husband, Tony Paz, is chairman of the festival which started in 1995. Paz said only about one percent of Ohioans are Asian Americans, and the festival provides a means of fellowship.

"There's no representation, so I think Asian Festival becomes, ground, common ground for everybody. These two days, it's amazing that you see all the communities, Asian communities, in Franklin Park," Tony Paz said.

Tony Paz said about 16 Asian countries will be represented at this weekend's festival. He said it's a family affair, with many attractions like Mongolian dancers and singers, even Sumo wrestlers. And of course, Paz said, the authentic Asian cuisine is always a crowd pleaser. And kids, he said, will be able to take things down a notch with traditional Asian games.

"They learn how to play the games, Asian games; it's really using the native products or natural materials. Not this high-tech Ipod or Game Boy or whatever," Paz said.

While the festivities are supposed to be fun and lighthearted, there is a sense of sadness in the air. In light of the cyclone victims in Myanmar and earthquake victims in China the festival's founder, Yung-Chen Lu, said the Red Cross will be there to collect donations. Lu says this year's festival is a time for solace.

"We have so many people from those tragedy areas and therefore we are helping each other and comfort each other. A 150,000 deaths total that is just beyond our imagination. Therefore, we have to do a lot to comfort each other, to make everyone feel more comfortable. That's why we're doing our best to raise the fund to help them," Lu said.

The festival is free to the public. It starts tomorrow morning and runs through Sunday evening.