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Hmong celebrate New Year's in Yuba City
Metal tongs in hand, Linda's Nick Yang carefully turned 15-inch pork sausages as he cooked over hot mesquite charcoal coals.
"I like the cooking and getting to see my friends when I come here," the 14-year-old barbecue chef explained. "I've been doing it for at least 10 years with my parents."
While he hasn't always been the grill master, Yang has developed his considerable culinary expertise along side his friends and parents at various Hmong New Year's celebrations and festivals as long as he can remember.
"These ones are almost ready," Yang said, turning eight more sausages.
Hundreds of people from up and down the West Coast packed the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds on Saturday for the 16th annual Hmong New Year's Festival in Yuba City to enjoy traditional food, dancing, and games.
Local and regional leaders and politicians attended the first day of the weekend-long event.
Marysville's Nou Xiong performed a traditional dance with her group, "Nplooj Siab," which she said translates roughly to "sweetheart."
"I was inspired by my older sisters to dance and just really wanted to try it," the 17-year-old said. "And, now, here we are."
They danced to an old song with a sad story.
Xiong said the song is about a girl who loves a boy, but the boy has to leave.
"He promises to come back and marry the girl," Xiong explained. "But the boy never comes back."
The dance was just one of many attractions and traditions at the festival. Dozens of vendors offering everything from music CDs for $2 and films for $3 to plastic toys, ornate jewelry and hundreds of varied home cures, medicines and pills in tiny plastic bags.
Traditional foods were a big part of the festivities. Visitors could find grilled beef ribs and pork spareribs, whole chickens, various grilled and smoked fish, pho — a delicious noodle soup — and papaya salads, which could all be washed down with boba teas and fruit smoothies.
The event continues today at the fairgrounds from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Meanwhile, Yang was ready to pull dozens of sausages off the grill.
Prepared with pork shoulder, garlic, Thai chilies, basil, ginger, cilantro and green onion and chopped into steaming cubes, served with purple sticky rice and a spicy red chili sauce for dipping, the sausages were quite popular Saturday afternoon.
"Cooking and walking around seeing friends," Yang said as he prepared more meat for the grill. "That's what I like about it."