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Orange County

Unity Fest Brings Few Together

Celebration: Turnout sags at event trying to join Vietnamese and other groups.

July 01, 2002|STANLEY ALLISON and DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Not even the Terminator could bring people out to the first multicultural festival in Westminster, which was hampered all weekend by small crowds.

About 400 people came Sunday afternoon to hear actor and health enthusiast Arnold Schwarzenegger promote his latest cause, the After School Education and Safety Program Act. The November ballot initiative would provide elementary and junior high schools with matching state funds for after-school programs.

Organizers of Multi-Cultural Festival 2002 were expecting 20,000 to attend the three-day event, which was an attempt to unite the local Vietnamese community with other cultures and ethnic groups. But only a few hundred people turned out Friday and Saturday. Sunday's crowd fell well short of the 8,000 that was projected.

Schwarzenegger, who is currently shooting "Terminator 3," spoke for about five minutes on his desire to give every child a place to go after school.

"Our children are our No. 1 investment, and they are not getting a fair shake," he said.

"Too many kids are unsupervised between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., and that's when teenage crime and pregnancies happen. More after-school programs are the answer to the problems."

Schwarzenegger was part of a salute to veterans, which included a tribute to sculptor Tuan Nguyen, who created the Vietnam War Memorial Statue.

On Friday, a Miss America Inter-Nationale contest was held and the queen--Casey Burns, 20, of Long Beach--was crowned Saturday night.

Planning for the festival began in January by the Friends of the Abbey, the Vietnamese Community of Orange County and the Asian-American Senior Citizens Assn.

Vendors of Mexican food, Polynesian dancers and the USA Country Cloggers, a dance troupe, came together at the festival. The grounds across from the Civic Center on 13th Street were filled with game booths, soft-drink vendors, rides and exhibits as well as Vietnamese and Thai cuisine.

Ann Tran, 37, a dentist from Orange, said she brought some of her cousins from Torrance to show them what's happening in the Vietnamese community, but she was disappointed by the festival's lack of support. "This is sad," Tran said. "I think it's not working because it's not advertised."

However, Sheryl Daniel-Park, an African American visiting from Baltimore, saw a festival advertisement Friday on Beach Boulevard. She strolled around the grounds Sunday but she too was disappointed.

"Multicultural to me means all different cultures," Daniel-Park said. "I have not seen any African American people since I've been here."

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