Mississippi State University’s Vietnamese Student Association is ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with their game and food-filled “Tết Fair” at 5 p.m. Feb. 8 at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Main Street.
Amy Pham, president of the MSU VSA and sophomore food science, nutrition and health promotion major, said the Tết Fair, or "Hoi Cho" in Vietnamese, is a celebration of the Vietnamese New Year which was on Jan. 25.
"In the Vietnamese culture, there's a thing called 'Hoi Cho' which is a fair. It means fair, and what they do is that. They have a stage and a general area, and they normally do fan dances and line dances and things like that, which we will not be doing, but we will be doing little fair games as well as selling food, which they do that at the fair," Pham said.
Austin Luong, VSA vice president and a sophomore biochemistry major, said the Tết Fair celebration is common within Vietnamese cultures. He had some friends attend the celebration in Jackson.
Pham said this is the MSU VSA’s first Tết Fair, and she is excited to bring the celebration to Starkville.
“For the Lunar New Year’s fair, it's usually in the Jackson area and New Orleans, that’s usually where it's bigger, but we’re trying to create it in the Starkville community,” Pham said.
Traditionally, various gambling card games are played at the Tết Fair, Pham said, but the VSA is modifying the games to be fun for all ages. Winners will receive a raffle ticket and be entered to win one of several prizes provided by the VSA.
Other games will include throwing a ball in a bucket, pin-tail-on-the-rat (in honor of the year of the rat), a Vietnamese picture and dice game, a card game called 13 and karaoke.
“Karaoke is very big in Vietnamese culture, and also, it’s just fun,” Luong said.
Luong said there will also be paper flowers on which attendees can write what they want from the new year. The flowers will then be pinned on a large paper tree.
Members of the VSA will prepare food that will be sold at the fair. The food will include Pho, or rice noodles with soup; spring rolls, or rice noodles, corn and shrimp rolled into rice paper with peanut butter sauce and for dessert; Che, a pudding/milk drink with fruits, coconut water; and jellies, Pham said.
VSA faculty adviser Darrel Sparks, an associate professor of biochemistry at MSU, said the food prepared by members of the club is always delicious.
“It’ll all be fresh, excellent food. It’s always very, very good,” Sparks said.
Tickets will cost $1, as will the games. Food will be for sale at various prices.
Proceeds from the event will be split evenly between the club and the club’s philanthropy, Messengers of Love.
“With Messengers of Love, the idea behind it is to raise money for educational purposes for students in Vietnam, so starting from very, very young, especially in rural and impoverished areas in Vietnam, which is a lot, trying to make sure they have opportunities to get educated all the way up through college,” Sparks said.
MSU VSA did celebrate the Vietnamese new year last year, but then, it was a members-only event. Pham said she wanted to expand the event to include the public.
“I wanted to make things more where anyone can go to this event and make things bigger,” Pham said. “A lot of our members have been wanting to have authentic Phở because they haven’t been at home in so long, some of them don’t go home that much, so having this event can really bring the community in as well as make people aware of MSU VSA.”
Pham said she was just looking forward to the community aspect of the event.
“I’m just really excited to see people having fun and trying to be together as a family celebrating and having fun and getting everyone comfortable around each other, whether they’re strangers, or friends or family,” Pham said.
Sparks concurred, stressing the welcoming spirit of the members of VSA and the value of celebrating Vietnamese culture.
“I think it’s good because, once again, the purpose of VSA is to bring people together who obviously have an interest in Vietnamese and Asian in general culture, but more than that it’s just an opportunity to connect people and have fun, and VSA has always been very welcoming to everybody so it’s just letting you have an opportunity to interact with an excellent group of students and celebrate the new year that the Vietnamese normally would,” Sparks said.