‘Little Saigon’ finds a home on Kingsway

Store along Kingsway

Stores along Kingsway between Fraser and Nanaimo Streets will soon be part of "Little Saigon." Photo by noftureface, Flickr

Though it’s been recognized as Vietnam’s business enclave for decades, The City of Vancouver has only recently approved the designation of “Little Saigon” on Kingsway between Fraser and Nanaimo streets.To honour the city’s decision, a celebration will take place on Nov. 5 at the Floata Seafood Restaurant on Keefer Street in Chinatown. This daytime event, which is free for all to attend, will be followed by an inaugural dinner and dance which will be hosted by the Metro Vancouver Vietnamese Business Association.“Because we do not have dedicated community halls, we shall be using other venues to celebrate our heritage,” explains Tammy Truong, the association’s president.One of the venues that Truong is alluding to is the Croatian Centre in Surrey, where the community will host the 2012 Miss Vietnamese Friendship Pageant.While the actual pageant will take place in January during the Lunar New Year’s festival, the auditions were held in the summer where 90 girls participated.

These girls, who range in age from 16 to 26, are encouraged to participate in and organize such events because it helps them recognize their cultural background.

“They work as a group to learn the traditional dance from Vietnam’s three major regions – north, south and central – and [they also wear] the long, traditional dresses [which represent] each region,” explains Adam Huy Bui.

While the exact date of the pageant is not yet known, it is being presented by the Vietnamese Friendship Society in Fraser Valley BC and V3.

“V3 [is a group that] is comprised of primarily young Vietnamese individuals [who want to retain and promote] the Vietnamese culture,” says Hue Truong, a certified Vietnamese interpreter.

The group, which was formed in 2006, has been actively involved in several community events and is now comprised of more than 50 members between the ages of 10 and 40.

Susan McKenzie often laughs when describing her adopted Vietnamese children who dance at festivals and parades. She is excited to be involved in The Vietnam Connection, a North Vancouver organization that supports Vietnamese orphans that are adopted by Canadian parents.

“The youngsters range in age from three to 10,” says McKenzie, “and they love to dance the traditional dances such as the [Vietnamese] bamboo dance.”

“The children will sometimes pair up with a teenager such as the girls in the Lunar New Year’s festival, and together [they] will make up their own, unique dance – their own choreography.”

“The parents will sometimes dance with the children because it looks like so much fun. The audience can easily see the variety and background of Vietnamese culture [because] the dancers’ ages cover a wide range.”

The ink is still wet on Vancouver’s proclamation of “Little Saigon” but with heartfelt pride and genuine excitement from all committee organizers and participants, it won’t take long for this Vietnamese community to be the talk of the town.

“For starters, we have to change the name of our little strip mall from Queen’s Plaza to Saigon Plaza,” says Bui.

Tickets for the dinner and dance can be purchased for $59 and proceeds will go towards organizing a Vietnamese Lunar New Year parade in January.

For more info., call Floata Seafood Restaurant, (604) 602-0368.