Spring Festival brings cultures together through art

Kristin Kajikawa, member of Japanese taiko group Kishin Daiko, plays on handmade drums at the West Covina Spring Festival on Saturday at the West Covina Sportsplex. The festival brought the diverse cultures in West Covina together through food, music and activities. / photo by Natalie Medrano
Kristin Kajikawa, member of Japanese taiko group Kishin Daiko, plays on handmade drums at the West Covina Spring Festival on Saturday at the West Covina Sportsplex. The festival brought the diverse cultures in West Covina together through food, music and activities. / photo by Natalie Medrano

Hien Nguyen
Arts Editor

Cultures from Mexico, the Philippines and Japan among many others came together to offer flavorful food and polished art performances at West Covina’s first ever Spring Festival.

The all-inclusive event, featuring 40 cultural performances and more than 150 food and retail vendors, took place last weekend at the city’s Sportsplex.

The two-day festival was put together and hosted by seven of the city’s nonprofit organizations including the West Covina Business Association, Kiwanis Club of West Covina, Seesaw Communities, San Gabriel Valley NAACP, Filipino American Association of West Covina, Chinese American Association of West Covina and East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center.

Councilman Tony Wu shared that his biggest hope is to see the community united again after the isolated times of COVID-19. 

“The pandemic really divided the people and what we’re trying to do is unite people together using entertainment,” Wu said.

President of the West Covina Business Association Donaji Zamora said one of the biggest goals when the community first started planning the festival was to make sure they bridge the gap between cultures.

“I want people to just appreciate each other and be nice to each other,” Zamora said. “I want people to be able to say, ‘Hey I’m Mexican but I can still enjoy Korean BBQ’ or ‘I’m Argentinian but I can drink Japanese sake,’ you know.”

With more than 100 vendors present on each day, attendees were treated to no shortage of unique and culturally rich booths to explore.

Among the booths were shops by small artists, both local and from all around California, who were eager to be there to tell their stories through various types of craft.

Cartoonist Lela Lee was excited to be able to watch the parade featuring Japanese taiko drummers and a Mexican mariachi band go by from the comfort of her stall.

“I thought it was a beautiful blend of this proud cultural moment of all cultures in the area,” Lee said.

She showcased her cartoon artworks of the character named ‘Angry Little Asian Girl’ through products like stickers, magnets, shirts and desk plaques at her booth. Lee also posts weekly comic strips of the character on her Instagram @AngryLittleGirls.

West Covina resident Dolores Calderon, who is a fan of Lee and has been following the cartoon for a while, bought many items from the booth to support the artist.

Another vendor, Cloris Chou, sold animal art and gifts for pet parents through her stand Cloris Creates.

Chou, who grew up and still resides in West Covina, said the inspiration for her shop was from her own pets– who are also illustrated on her business card.

“I could never find anything that represents my dog, which is a white husky, so I was like I’ll make my own,” Chou said. “It makes me happy when people see something that represents their pet.”

Other than diverse food and retail vendors, two stages within the vicinity graced the presence of many renowned as well as local performers representing different cultures.

The performance stage welcomed well-known artists like Mariachi singers Arturo Vargas and Angelica Montaño to entertain the crowd.

The community stage gave local groups the opportunity to showcase their talents and represent their respective identity.

Japanese taiko group Kishin Daiko wowed the crowd with their impressive drumming performance on the community stage.

The group is a part of the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center, one of the seven main nonprofit groups who organized the event.

Kishin Daiko member Kristin Kajikawa shared that it has been more than two years since the group’s last performance which was before the pandemic started.

Kajikawa said all the drums used on stage were handmade by the group.

“We actually made these out of wine barrels and we got cowhide to stretch over the top then carpet tacks to nail down the skin of the drum,” said Kajikawa. “It was fun to work together and make our own instruments because if we brought it straight from Japan, it would’ve cost thousands of dollars.”

Assistant City Manager Roxanne Lerma emphasized that the event is extra special because it is something for the community and was made happen by the community. 

“The seven nonprofit groups were exceptional at helping to get vendors and entertainers for this event,” Lerma said. “Every decision was made by the community and we really look at this as an opportunity to give some of the small businesses and local groups a venue as well.”

Hien Nguyen can be reached at hien.nguyen2@laverne.edu.

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Hien Nguyen, a senior journalism major and psychology minor, is arts editor for the Campus Times. She has previously been a staff writer.

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Natalie Medrano, a junior photography major, is the Fall 2022 photography editor for the Campus Times and a staff photographer for La Verne Magazine.

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