Thousands Gather for Korean Food and Culture at Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

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Thousands of people gathered on an overcast Saturday afternoon on the Presidio’s main lawn for the fourth annual Korean Chuseok festival, one of many mid-autumn harvest moon celebrations in San Francisco this weekend. end.

The event, hosted by the Korea Center, included a stage with a variety of performers, a tent with a live cooking demonstration featuring different types of Korean jang or fermented dough – several made locally – and stalls for small Korean artists and businesses. as municipal services.

But the real draw was the food. Lines, some of more than 50 people, snaked around the grounds for each of the dozens of mostly Korean food stalls and trucks.

“We stood in line for an hour and a half to get this food,” said Grace Yoo, holding an almost empty bowl of noodles, alongside her friend, Valerie Soe, and cousin, Betty Pio. “But it was worth it. We all love Korean food!

Yoo, who teaches at the San Francisco State Department of Asian American Studies, said she was happy to see so many non-Korean people at the festival enjoying and celebrating the culture.

“I’m so happy there are so many people here,” she said. “It’s been fantastic.”

People lined up for about an hour to taste Jongga brand kimchi during the 4th annual Bay Area Chuseok festival in San Francisco.

Jungho Kim / Special for The Chronicle

It was Yoo’s cousin Pio’s idea to come to the festival, she said – a kind of “cousins ​​reunion”. Pio said she wanted to bring her two toddlers, Chloe and Poppy, to experience the celebration.

“They’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said. Their favorite part, she said, might have been watching the K-Pop-Up dancers, who performed contemporary dances on the main stage to Korean pop hits as people of all ages, including a group of seniors in the special seniors’ tent, watched, clapped and danced.

Eon-Jo Chang, who is a counselor and volunteer for the Korea Center, was thrilled to see so many people show up — they were expecting around 8,000 to 10,000 people throughout the day, she said .

At the same event in 2019, which was the first of its kind in San Francisco, attendance was around 5,000 people — more than they expected even then, she said. The pandemic meant that festivals for the past two years were virtual, so this year’s was the first to return in person, she said.

Chuseok, she said, resembles Korean Thanksgiving and is a very important holiday for the community. She was delighted to have partnered with the Presidio Trust for this year’s event, which she said had been helpful in setting up the festival area, which spanned the entire lawn of the Presidio between the park red brick buildings.

“We want to support Korean American businesses, food and organizations,” she said, beaming as she looked around. “I am so happy that we have this recognition. It’s really cool for the Korean American community.

New this year, she said, was a station dedicated to writing wishes for the Chuseok moon, which is considered the fullest and brightest of the year, symbolizing prosperity. The wishes, written on cut-out pieces of neon construction paper, hung from a sculpture of wooden clouds suspended below a Chuseok moon.

Artist Lightning Yumeku hangs people's written wishes on a sculpture titled

Artist Lightning Yumeku hangs wishes written by people on a sculpture titled “Wishes to the Chuseok Moon” during the 4th Annual Chuseok Bay Area Festival in San Francisco on September 10, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for The Chronicle

“We wanted to do something special coming out of COVID,” she said. “It’s about celebrating the resilience of the community.

And the written wishes reflected that. Many simply said several words, such as “love, happiness, contentment, health”. One child, who signed her own name, Lani, but appeared to have an adult’s help on the post, wrote, “Wishing lots of presents.” Another simply said, “I wish for a grandchild!” Amen!”

Artist Lightning Yumeku, who designed the sculpture, was helping people bind their wishes under the clouds. He said the inspiration for his design came to him quickly, even pulling out the sketchbook where he came to life.

“I was thinking about what we were doing on Chuseok and how we send wishes to the moon,” he said. “From there, it was clear that the moon must be at the top, all going up towards it.”

Yumeku explained that even though he wasn’t Korean, his childhood best friend was, so Yumeku learned to talk about it with his friends’ parents. This era, he said, also cultivated his love for Korean culture.

“On top of that, I’m doing 40 artworks for the Korea Center,” he said, before rushing to ask a young child what cloud he wanted his wish on.

Jen Ha from San Francisco writes her wish on a piece of paper to hang on the sculpture

Jen Ha from San Francisco writes her wish on a piece of paper to hang on the ‘Wishes to the Chuseok Moon’ sculpture during the 4th Annual Bay Area Chuseok Festival.

Jungho Kim / Special for The Chronicle

For many families, the festival was a chance to reunite with long-lost friends and family, as children often scream and run towards each other with outstretched arms before to hold hands and run and play. But for some, it was an opportunity to feel closer to home during a family vacation.

Ji Hyun, who lives in San Jose, said he made the trip to the event with his family – all of whom wore matching Jelly Belly shirts on a recent trip to the Jelly Belly factory – to experience a slice of where he came from Korea, in his new home, the Bay Area.

“We’re Korean, and it’s too far to go back to visit family in Korea,” he said, smiling as he watched his daughter Ellie, 6, play with a pink toy she had just bought. receive. “But it’s great. We like it. I think she particularly likes it.

Danielle Echeverria is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @DanielleEchev

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