For the first time in about 30 years, residents and leaders came together for an open, public celebration in Downtown Merced to ring in the traditional Lao New Year last Saturday.
The event, including a colorful parade, was meant to bring light to the unique Laotian American experience that started right here in the culturally diverse Central Valley.
The day’s festivities kicked off with a “Takbaht,” where community members gave food and alms to Buddhist monks, followed by a lunchtime feast hosted at Bangkok Thai on Main Street. A parade followed with people and community floats traveling down Main Street to Bob Hart Square.
Along the way, people shared in water splashing to cleanse one another of bad luck, and ensure that the upcoming year was filled with good luck.
After the parade, Laotian and Merced leaders spoke to those in attendance, followed by a variety of performances led by Laotian and Hmong residents, and a Baci Sukhan ceremony to wish each other good luck. Rounding out the day was a screening of the documentary “Getting Lao’d,” which tells the story of Lao Art.