Annual Picnic Becomes Festival of Thailand


The Thai Association of Minnesota (TAM) holds an annual summer picnic event to celebrate Mother’s Day in Thailand, a National Holiday which is also the 75th birthday of Her Majesty Sirikit, Queen of Thailand. The Queen of Thailand is considered the mother of all Thai people.

Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s and Queen Sirikit have ruled for 61 years and are endeared for their compassion and concern for the less privileged. Thai people wear yellow at the event to honor the beloved monarchs, who have ruled for the past 61 years.

For the past ten years or so, Thai Minnesotans have met in Shoreview by the lake to celebrate Mother’s Day. It is a chance for the scattered group to meet, speak the language, eat real Thai food and sing karaoke until late evening. The 2007 event, however, started a tradition of celebrating Thai culture together with the Thai American and mainstream communities.

A steady stream of people took advantage of a beautiful Sunday and strolled the event that took half the available space of Island Lake Ramsey County Park in Shoreview. It was really an encouraging, very successful first-time event that will help organizers bring even more people on board for 2008.

Parichart Wallen moved to Minnesota from Thailand nine years ago with her spouse, Joe, and son, Elija. She joined TAM and began work on the committee to find and welcome new Thai families.

Part of that work is organizing the Thai New Year party each spring, and the summer picnic. For the past several years it has been held at various parks, and the last few at Shoreview. The events highlighted the talents of local Thai residents, whether cooks, singers, dancers, swordsmen, musicians or volunteers.

This year, with the interest of the Thai consulate, TAM President Sombat Supunnium and the Committee created a larger, public event and invited restaurants, cultural booths and venders. They rechristened the picnic event, Festival of Thailand.

“We think it is a great way for people to learn and experience some Thai culture,” said Parichart.

“Kids are the main reason that people want to participate,” she said, asking that parents who would like for their children to learning Thai culture and dance should contact Parichart Wallen at 612 -701-6019 or

Suwitt Suttapanraj, president, TAM, said this he was pleased that this first-time event was able to showcase the culture and get people together to have a good time.

“I thought that this would be a low turnout in this first year, but it has done very well in bringing together many people to celebrate the Thai culture,” he said.

The event was made possible with generous support from the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Chicago. The Consulate has sent representatives to the picnic event for the past three years to assist local residents with visas, passports and other official documents without having them drive all the way to Chicago.

Thai Consul General Narong Sasitorn, said the mobile office is an outreach service they provide to their 17-state Midwest district, with similar events in St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver. The St. Paul event draws Thai community from Iowa, the Dakota’s, Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin, and wherever residents find it more convenient to come here rather than Chicago.

Sasitorn was pleased with the event turnout, and with the overall initiative in cooperation with the TAM. He said the event accomplished its objectives as a cultural showcase for the mainstream community and also to bring the widely dispersed members of the Thai American communities together in celebration.

One of Sasitorn’s other goals is to get more Americans to make Thailand a travel destination on the level of the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico. More people will do this when they learn more about what Thailand has to offer in the beaches of the south, the mountains of the north and the central valleys.

“There are four regions, with different climates, cuisine and dialects,” he said.

When asked about the transitional government and its impact on life in Thailand, Sasitorn said that in the several months since the military appointed government took power in lieu of coming free elections, that there is no sense any difference in daily life in Bangkok. There is freedom of speech, the press and commerce. He said that tourism and foreign investment remain strong.

Another backbone of the Thai community is the students of the University of Minnesota Thai Student Association. Around 35 of these Thai and Thai American students volunteered for the event.

“This is a good way to unify the community and to promote the Thai Association of Minnesota, the Thai Student Association, and Thai culture,” said Nawanan Theera-Ampornpont, president, Thai Student Association.

The students had a laptop, scanner and printer available to help guests conducting business with the Thai consulate, and might need copies of documents. They provided the service for just a dollar, with all proceeds going to the TSA.

The entertainment was incredible. The main stage was open to the park and a backdrop photo of His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej and Mom Rajawongse Sirikit, the king and queen of Thailand.

The Emcee was Dr. Vallapa Siverhus, who introduced several cultural dances, songs and music acts of the Thai Cultural and Fine Arts Institute of Chicago, and the Thai Traditional Dance Group of Minnesota.

Raming Yang and Lee Lor, two students of Sensei Greg Nelson, a professional kick-boxer who operates the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, offered a Muay Thai exhibition. This kickboxing style is very popular in Thailand. Fighters need to be in prime condition, as they deliver and defend against kicks and punches, using not only their hands and feet, but also the knees and elbows.

Muay Thai is unique among the martial arts especially in its combative style, but is steeped in tradition, as was demonstrated with the opening warm-up rituals that includes music and emphasizes respect for the sport and their opponents.

Participating Restaurants included Minneapolis restaurants, Chiang Mai Thai, Sawatdee and Koyi Sushi; Binh Minh and the new Amazing Thai, located in Uptown. Oriental Foods of Eagan and Wild Ginger of White Bear Lake were also present.

Parpriorn (Orn) Chakkapark, CMT Thai Healing Therapy, in St. Louis Park, set up her Thai massage table next to the lake, sending a lot of grateful guests into a mid-afternoon nap under the warm sun.

The Ven. Phaisip Sattayavup, the Abbot of Wat Thai Buddhist Center in Elk River ( was present to welcome Thai community and invite them to the spiritual center north of the metro.

The Wat Thai currently has about 100 or so faithful, and many more who come for the religious holidays. Ven. Sattayavup wants more people to know about the programs, teachings and events of the center and to now it is their for spiritual and cultural needs and support.