REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK | Hmong Freedom Celebration and Sports Tournament


The 29th annual Hmong Freedom Celebration and Sports Tournament will be held this weekend in St. Paul at Como Park. Sponsored since its inception by Lao Family Community of Minnesota, one of the oldest Hmong organizations in Minnesota, the tournament draws Hmong from around the country and around the world and one of the highlights for Hmong living in Minnesota, along with Hmong New Year celebrations. ChuPheng Lee, the Vice President of Lao Family and Chairman of this year’s tournament, estimates that between 50,000 and 60,000 people will attend the tournament.

Official info at Lao Family website

While the soccer tournament is the best known event to be held over the weekend, there are many more sports represented, including volleyball, flag football, kato, tennis, and top spin. There will also be badminton, basketball, bowling, golf, and poker off-site as part of the weekend. For those unfamiliar with the weekend’s Hmong sports, “tuj lub” (or “top spin”) has players launch tops with bamboo poles for distance and to hit other players’ tops, and kataw (“kato”) looks like a combination of volleyball and soccer. Prize money will be handed out for the top finishers in all of these sports, with total prize money reaching over $60,000.

Equally important to the weekend, however, is what happens around the various sports tournaments, where vendors of all kinds will be selling things like food, arts and crafts, and music, just to name a few. These vendors have increasingly started selling more “American” or “mainstream” wares, a increasingly prominent shift in the weekend’s emphasis over the previous decade.

According to Lee, with elected officials, colleges, political parties, companies and other non-Hmong organizations attending and advertising at the tournaments, it’s “more like a city of St. Paul event,” rather than one just tied to the Hmong alone.

What we’re looking for is community input about the Sports Tournament, your experiences at the tournament, how it has changed over the years, what the gathering of Hmong from around the country and around the world means, and any other thoughts you might have about the weekend. Leave a comment on this story, or e-mail

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