Year of the rabbit celebrated at Lunar New Year festival


Andrew Ulstad

Traditional Chinese dance by Renee Bi.

Alahnna Connolly, Staff Reporter

A Lunar New Year festival featuring Asian cuisine, performances by special guests and booths set up by the Korean Student Association (KSA) livened up Holmes Dining on Jan. 25. This year is the year of the rabbit, which is believed to bring hope and prosperity. 

In the first hour of the event, 300 students had checked in and long lines were no match for students eager to enjoy the celebration. The line went from Holmes Dining Hall all the way to the Wildcat Shop, and stayed like that for at least two hours. Dining services gave away 200 free tickets from the student store and the event sold out in one day, according to Rhee.

CWU student Samaad Turner said, “I love how this school is appreciating different cultures and introducing it to the students.”

The festival was put together by fifth year in music education and KSA President Jennifer Rhee. Rhee said Lunar New Year means “a time to make dumplings with her family and gives her family a reason to eat and spend time with each other.” 

Rhee said she thinks this event is important to the Asian community because, “there is a little bit of absence of acknowledgement in the Asian community at [CWU] and this event helps bring that to life and make us feel like we’re back at home with our families, since we are mostly from the westside.”

Jennifer Rhee has been a part of KSA since around 2020. She said she was interested in bringing the club back to campus because the last members graduated and left. Rhee organizes meetings and events along with member recruitment.

The event was supported by dining services executives Dean Masuccio, Denise Payton, Dustin Atkinson and Joe Ritchie. Rhee said 17 volunteer members helped set up and pull this event together, and said she received funding from SLICE. CWU Hype helped advertise the event around campus and on social media.

“I want to put a lot of emphasis on Hype and the event center for helping,” Rhee said.

Dr. Chong Eun Ahn is the director of the Asian studies program and associate professor of history. Rhee said Ahn helped her get where she is now.

As students finished their food early, a student named Kashawna Singleton said, “This event was way more than I expected and I can’t wait to see what the performers will be doing.” The line finally dissolved at 7:00 p.m. as performers took to the stage.

Performances included an opening act by a vocalist, Elizabeth Jenkins, who is a certified black belt and put on a nunchuck performance, a member of KSA, a thank you message from Ahn, a Korean dance shuffle game and Hannah Cho,a singer who is native to Washington state. There was also a traditional Chinese dance done by Renee Bi.

The menu offered chicken dumplings, Chinese pork steamed buns, Korean rice cake soup, Tang Yuan (sweet rice balls), Japchae (stir fried noodles), fried spring rolls and whole-roasted chicken with fresh fruit.

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Vice President of Student Success Lucha Ortega said, “I like the university, all the students, faculty and staff. Everything has been positive and I was invited to this event and can’t wait to taste the food. The school does a great job with diversity.”

Rhee wore a traditional dress that was a wedding dress from her mentor Ahn who got married in the dress. The traditional wedding dress is called a Humboldt. 

Ahn funded an extra $1,000 to the Lunar New Year event as they had a tight budget. They needed more money, and the contributions of the Asian Studies department was the reason Hannah Cho was able to come out and perform for the event. 

This is Rhee’s last year at CWU, and she said her parting gift was connecting her dad CJ Rhee to the dining team as a personal sourcer. The event was a family affair, as Rhee’s dad was involved in providing ingredients for the meal. 

Her father CJ Rhee communicated with dining services the whole time to make sure they were getting the correct food as authentically as he could.