Knoxville’s first Asian Festival 5K is here, celebrating the new year and wishing Knoxvillians a healthy life.

In honor of the Year of the Pig and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Asian Culture Center will be hosting its first Year of the Pig 5K on May 4.

Upon recently learning that May is dedicated to celebrating Asian Pacific Americans, Kumi Alderman, executive director of the Asian Culture Center, wanted an event to commemorate the special month.

“(May) celebrates the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout United States,” Alderman said. “(The Asian Culture Center) was wanting to find some way to celebrate it.”

“We thought ‘why don’t we do a healthy activity?’ and everyone thought of a 5K.”

The center is encouraging that the 5K participants dress in Asian cultural costumes to make the event more fun while setting the 5K apart.

Along with the costumes, the 5K will be unique by celebrating Asian American heritage through offerings of Japanese rice balls and miso soup after the race and featuring a Mochi tuki demonstration, in which participants repeatedly hit sticky rice dough used to make mochi.

“Whatever celebration (the mochi tuki ceremony celebrates), good things happen,” Alderman said.

All proceeds will go to the Asian Culture Center for events like the Knoxville Asian Festival, which occurs annually in August, and various educational programs. Some of the proceeds will also go towards a new venture the center will be creating, the Knox Asian Epcot at World’s Fair Park, featuring different food vendors, craft vendors, kids activities, travel information and history information representing several Asian countries. Performances will range from Thai dances to professional Chinese opera.

“The mission of the Asian Culture Center of TN is to invest in the Greater Knoxville Community and East Tennessee and promote cultural diversity by bringing families together to experience the richness and beauty of a diverse culture,” Alderman said. “Thus, this 5K race strives to bring together people from various cultural backgrounds to promote peace, harmony, unity and a healthy lifestyle.”

“Knoxville is changing, becoming a very welcoming community. We would like to have Knoxville seen as a very diversity-friendly city.”

Alderman said that the center is aiming to get 200 attendees at the event. People will also be able to sign up for “virtual 5k” to support the organization without attending the race.

Mari Koguma, junior in anthropology and volunteer coordinator of the 5K, said that volunteering at the event would be a good way for students to finish up community service hours. Those wanting to volunteer can sign up online and will get an email from Koguma with more specific directions on assignments.

“(Volunteering at and participating in the 5K is) a great way to learn about other people, the minority who live in Knoxville,” Koguma said. “I think it’s really important to create diversity and a better community and to not have conflicts and hatred happen; it’s a great way to know others. I think volunteering is the way to get closer and have better communication.”

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