Now in its 14th year, the parade commences at Cherry Avenue and Anaheim Street, and travels west on Anaheim until it ends about a half-mile later at MacArthur Park. There, the festival takes center stage, quite literally, with a bevy of performers and performances scheduled.
The parade will include floats, re-enactments and dancers, including members of the Long Beach’s Khmer Arts Academy, which will lead the parade by performing prayer dance as well as a festival blessing dance. Khmer Arts’ reputation for authenticity and cultural accuracy is so well-known that Disney used several members of the academy as consultants for its film “Raya and the Last Dragon.”
Mea Lath, managing director of the Academy, said her pupils, who until recently had been limited to performing virtually, have performed with a palpable enthusiasm that “makes it feel like they haven’t been away at all. [The pandemic] took the magic away, temporarily. A lot of the love and energy is back.”
The parade and festival has become one of the most popular and entertaining cultural events in Long Beach, providing the Khmer community not only with an opportunity to come together, but to welcome others into their vibrant circle. For the past two years, because of the pandemic, that’s been especially hard for this tight knit community.
“This means a lot to us. It’s been very difficult [during the pandemic],” said Richer San, who is on the board of directors of Cambodia Town Inc. “We want to re-share our culture with Long Beach. So many good things come from this.”
Cambodia Town, focused in and around a 1.2-mile stretch of Anaheim Street between Atlantic and Junipero avenues, is home to the largest concentration of Cambodians of any city outside of Asia. Its business district includes numerous restaurants, clothing stores, jewelry stores and temples, most of which will be open during the parade and festival and eager to welcome folks to the neighborhood.“
Our business community was hit hard, this will bring foot traffic and tourists to the community,” San said. “So many [business people] have been begging us, saying ‘Please! Restart the parade! We need this!’”
The parade began in 2005, becoming the first Cambodian parade outside of the country itself. San said the event was meant to serve as “a unifying force for Cambodians in Long Beach” by presenting Cambodian cultural customs and traditions to change the social and economic well-being of residents and business owners, while also giving a strengthened identity to the community’s children.