By WCCO Reporter Pafoua Yang

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Hmong Freedom Festival is canceled for the second year in a row. The annual event is typically held at Como Park during Fourth of July weekend.

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The two-day event draws about 40,000 people globally from the Hmong community and other communities. Sports, food and merchandise are a huge draw for the celebration.

Last year’s pandemic led to a two-year pause, affecting many community members including vendors like Wung Lee.

“The Hmong community wasn’t able to get together anymore, and we couldn’t go out to work as vendors,” Lee said.

He owns a supermarket in St. Paul that sells vintage Hmong fabrics. Thanks to the J4 festival, Lee and his wife were able to put their products into thousands of hands. Lee said some years, he can make months’ worth of income at just one event.

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The Hmong Freedom Festival in 2013 (credit: CBS)

United Hmong Family (UHF) organizes the annual celebration. UHF president Mee Vang said with the pandemic, the Hmong festival became a safety net.

“With a pandemic, many have lost jobs and so they were hoping to set some of those costs with coming to the event as vendors,” said Vang. “So it really hit the community pretty hard.”

The festival costs roughly $540,000 each year to set up the grounds and hire security. Vang said the organization didn’t have much luck in getting grants for the historic event.

While there are concerns about funding for the next celebration, organizers — including UHF vice president Xang Kue — are positive the community will pull together.

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“For two summers, it’s like a void. We’ve been longing to fill that void in each other’s lives,” said Kue. “I look forward to 2022.”