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Hmong Wausau Festival
Photo by Kyle Pozorski

What it means to be a Hmong American

Story By Kyle Pozorski
Local News Published 08/01/2021 10:10AM, Last Updated 08/01/2021 3:08PM
Wausau -

About 12 percent of the Wausau population is made up of Hmong Americans, with ancestry tied to refugees who fled Laos after the Vietnam War in the 1970s. The Hmong Wausau Festival, an event made to gather the Hmong of Wausau together, gives the community a chance to learn about Hmong history and culture. Newswatch 12 met up with participants to ask them what the event offers to the Hmong population and what it means to be a Hmong American.

Descendants of Hmong immigrants today say that family is a large part of the Hmong American culture. Lai Lee, a vendor at the event, spoke about how Hmong families are close. "You know how Hmongs say it's more like families, but it's actually more than family. Like we look at the second cousin, first cousin, third cousin, very close," said Lee. 

Visiting from Minneapolis to play volleyball with his friends, Doua Neng agrees that family is a pillar of Hmong culture. Neng said, "Every family that I know, we all have a big family and we don't like the house quiet. So that's why family is so important [to me]."

In its fourth annual year, the Hmong Wausau Festival allowed for the community to come together after a year of social distancing due to COVID-19. Tony Xiong, visiting from Minnesota, said, "This is actually a very good event. This is new to us. This is our first time in Wisconsin too. My team is actually really excited being here too." 

For the Hmong community, sticking together is a all a part of what it means to be a Hmong American. "We're all hard workers, we all are immigrants that got left behind in Thailand, and then we all migrated here to just have a better life," said Neng. 

Xiong said, "I feel blessed to be a Hmong American. I appreciate my family coming from like Laos and Thailand just to bring us over."   

The Hmong Wausau Festival took place July 31 and August 1 at the Marathon County Sports Complex. A COVID-19 vaccine clinic was also set up to encourage attendees to get vaccinated. 
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