Lexington High School was chock full of food, vendors and visitors with an appetite for community gathering attending the Asian American Pacific Islander Food Festival last Friday evening. After a few years missed due to COVID-19, the festival returned in full swing in celebration of AAPI Heritage Month.
Long tables decorated with orange linen and ceilings adorned with yellow streamers enwreathed the lines of attendees waiting to get a plate full of the assorted cuisines handed out by festival volunteers. Trays were overflowing with stir-fried noodles, dumplings, sushi, chicken tikka masala and more.
Other activities included a henna stand run by the Indian Association of Lexington, teaching seniors how to play traditional Chinese games, traditional Japanese activities and games by the JPLex Youth Team, and the student-led Never Fading Poppy Project, which ran a booth making poppy flowers and cards for veterans in the community.
Sridhar Duvvuri, a resident of Lexington, said he attended the festival in support of the AAPI community and was surprised by the large turnout. “This is my first time,” attending the festival, Duvvuri said. “It’s great to see people coming together for the community.”
Other LHS student volunteers were pleasantly surprised by the attendance rate and believed it was indicative of the visibility of Lexington’s AAPI community.
“It was stressful planning the event, but the turnout made it worth it,” said LHS sophomore Sejal Mammai, a volunteer with the Chinese American Association of Lexington (CAAL), one of the festival’s sponsors.
The AAPI Food Festival was fronted by AAPI Lexington, a high-school-based youth group run and led by LHS students, with sponsorship and a collaborative effort between several cultural organizations in Lexington, including CAAL, IAL and the Korean Americans Organization of Lexington (KOLex).
“It is wonderful to do such large-scale events again after COVID-19 because we missed out on a lot,” said Sudhiti Marri, an LHS sophomore and the chief director of operations for AAPI Lexington. “I’m grateful to be a part of an organization that has been bringing together the community in a way we haven’t been able to do recently.”
Marri said the festival worked as an all-inclusive platform for bringing together different AAPI cultures because of the universal element of food.
“People can bond over different types of cuisine and these flavors tend to carry a lot of heritage,” Marri said. “Food and culture go hand in hand, and that’s the same for a lot of AAPI cultures.”