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Tennis and Asian Culture Meet in Virginia Festival

A dancer entertains the crowd that the eighth annual Asian Festival was held in late July on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia

Asian culture and heritage has been often celebrated in the United States with street festivals. But few have been held with a tie to tennis.

The eighth annual Asian Festival was held in late July on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and was organized by the Thai Tennis Organization of America. The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) adds support for the festival with the aim of encouraging young people to enjoy the sport and learn more about Asian culture.

Janine Underwood, with the USTA, said, "It gives us an opportunity, the USTA an opportunity to reach out all different cultures to bring tennis to the general public."

While the kids were introduced to tennis, a full prize money event was being held on nearby courts.

One of the event organizers, Bing Brannigan, said, "Tennis like golf is a lot of money to become a player. You have to go to Wimbledon. There is a lot of sponsorship. We, Asian Americans, encourage everyone to be counted if they are American citizens and [those who] try to become American citizens. So this mostly education, our Asian family."

Brannigan says the festival itself features four main regions. "At the moment we have four major villages - Thailand, Philippines, China and India. But we also have Laotian, Cambodian and Pakistani [represented]," he said. "And we are trying to get more hopefully in the next few years."

Visitors could see and buy arts, clothing, and other items found in Asia. They also had plenty of opportunities to eat.

"It is bringing the Asian cuisine to America. I know it is very hard to travel right now. So we want our adopted family, our American friends, to come and see Asia for free, taste food and see the culture," Brannigan said.

Bing Brannigan says the festival is a great place for young people who have grown up in the United States to experience and grow in their family's Asian heritage. "We encourage our second and third generation. Most of them were born here. But they were raised [in both cultures]. And sometimes they do not understand. Now they are feeling it [and say] 'oh this is my culture.' So they start to say this is where we should be," he said.

One of those second generation children is 12-year-old Sita Nair, who was the lead performer in Chandra's Kung Fu demonstration. "I have been learning since I was three. I love doing this. I did a tournament recently in June. I got first place in my butterfly knives," he said.

Eight is considered a very good number in China, and the eighth edition of the Asia Festival in Fairfax, Virginia had the good fortune of outgrowing its former location to a more spacious setting at George Mason University, allowing thousands of people to easily attend.

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    Jim Stevenson

    For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.