George Duangmanee: ‘It’s a Bigger 2011 Asian Festival’
By: Jennie L. Ilustre
In a word, Wow! That’s the only way to describe the weekend, summer Asian Food and Tennis Festival in Virginia. Last year at Reston, the celebration of Asian culture and sports attracted a large crowd.
Families came with friends. Many stayed to enjoy the multi-cultural food and products, tennis competitions, games and the all-day performances set on three stages. This year, organizers are expecting a bigger, better 8th Annual Asian Food and Tennis Festival, to be held on July 23 to 24.
“We’re holding the Festival at the George Mason University Main Campus in Fairfax, and there’s free parking,” said George Duangmanee, Festival founder and member of the all-volunteer Festival Committee. George is a successful financial adviser in the nation’s capital.
The site is located at 4400 University Drive in Fairfax, Virginia. On July 23, Saturday, the Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The following day, it starts at 11 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m.
For details about the Festival, visit www.asianfestivaldc.com, or call (703) 589-4144. Or contact George at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bing C. Branigin at email@example.com.
The Festival is unique because of its variety. “It offers something for everyone, for all ages,” George said. There are at least 35 authentic Asian food, 250+ product vendors, 3 large exhibitions tent including Korean Embassy, and 4 villages: Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Destination Asia. He said the Festival Committee limits food to 30-plus vendors: “More than that and the vendors will not make much profit, and we don’t have every one selling the same product. This year, we will have 6 Indian, 6 Chinese, 6 Filipino, 2 Laotian, 2 Japanese, 2 Korean, 1 Vietnamese, and 8 Thai ”
The Festival also showcases performances in three stage sets. Among the performers on the Main Stage are crowd favorites music bands; The Speaks, July 23 at 5 p.m. and Paperdoll, 8 p.m.; and Ivy Rose, an all-girl Filipino American band, July 24 at 3 p.m.
The tennis championships are open to men and women. On July 23 at 4 to 6 p.m., the Tennis Clinic will feature Paradorn Srichaphan. Likewise, under a 15-city mobile tour, the USTA SmashZone Mobile will be at the Festival. USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S. The USTA SmashZone Mobile includes a 53-foot trailer, which anchors four kid-sized tennis courts. It promotes USTA’s ongoing youth participation initiative, “10 and Under Tennis.”
George is a board member of the USTA Mid Atlantic. He was once a professional tennis player (he ranked 40th in the world Jr.). In fact, the one of the first Asian Festival began as part of the tournament by the Thai Tennis Organization in America or TTOA (www.thaitennis.org).
George, his wife Joanne, and their close friends founded TTOA, a member of USTA. TTOA is a 501 C 3 non-profit organization whose mission is to promote tennis growth, as well as encourage young people “to broaden their horizons through education initiatives via scholarships.”
George has an M.BA. from George Washington University. Business is in his DNA (dad Thamnoon Duangmanee was co-founder of Thailand’s stock exchange). Currently, George is financial adviser to one of the top institutions in World. He’s also a consultant at Thai Chili, a restaurant in Verizon Center in D.C. owned by his wife Joanne, who was born and educated here.
“We have three kids born here, and we want them to know about other cultures–that’s why each year, no matter how busy we are, we set aside time for Asian Festival,” said Joanne.
Remarked George: “It gets bigger every year. We’re always expanding. For the past seven years, we couldn’t have done it without community support and those individuals, businesses, and organizations that have been generously supporting the Asian Festival. This includes USTA-Virginia and our title sponsor, Singha Beer.”
Everyone involved in the Festival have day jobs, so it can be hectic. On the day of the interview, Joanne’s restaurant was packed at lunch time. She cheerfully waited on tables. She recalled that recently, she waited on ice hockey superstar Alex Ovechkin, who was standing in line at her mom’s Sushi restaurant next door.
“I carded him,” Joanne said, blushing. “I wasn’t even looking at him. I was looking at his card. His girlfriend was like, ‘You must be kidding!’ But he was very nice about it.” Told later by friends that Ovechkin is the Nadal of tennis, George added, laughing, “We have jersey No. 8 for him to sign next time, and we’ll display it here at the restaurant.”
People assume the annual Festival is staged by a big professional event company. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A small, all-volunteer group handles everything.
This group includes festival founder George, Joanne, and a small circle of friends. These close friends are Nick Srisawat, T Sangkhavasi (who had since returned to Thailand), Val Sekhar, Chume Bertrand, Janine Underwood, Bing Cardenas Branigin, Peter Ahmed, John Reed, and etc. Assisting them is a part-time staff of 300+ volunteers, and wonderful organization partners such as PAFC Philippine American Foundation for Charities, The Coordination Council of Chinese-American Associations, Rushhi Entertainment, Royal Thai Embassy, Korean Embassy, Migrant Heritage Commission, Indian International School, and etc
Each year, this group stages the festival, attending to tasks large and small, coordinating, fine-tuning: “Making sure every aspect comes together flawlessly.”
In 2002, the group founded the Thai Tennis Organization in America. Within weeks, it landed its first sponsor–Singha Beer, Thailand’s most popular beer. George added smiles, “We could not thank you enough for Mr. Santi Bhirombhakdi, Singha Beer CEO and his company to see the important of promoting Asian Cultural in the U.S. and supporting us unconditionally for the past 8 years.” We hold an Asian festival around the tournament.”
The professional women’s tennis event in Northern Virginia and the 1st Asian Festival was held in far-away Ashburn. “We’ve learned since then to hold it at a more convenient site,” George added. Still, with all the birth pains, the first Asian Festival drew an impressive 8,000 people.
Eileen Curtis, president and CEO of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, remarked, “In an area as diverse as the Dulles Region, it’s not only a most enjoyable festival, but also a real testament to the importance of our Asian American community!”
Nick Srisawat, with whom George plays tennis regularly, has high praise for him. He said he has been the TTOA president, and George is the vice president. Nick was in the Festival Committee from the very beginning. “George is a very smart, hardworking guy,” he said in a phone interview. “He’s also very dedicated to the noteworthy goals of the Asian Food and Tennis Festival.”