New Yorkers from across the five boroughs will gather at Manhattan's Union Square this Sunday to sample traditional Taiwanese treats, watch musical and dance performances, and celebrate the many contributions of Taiwanese Americans, in what organizers say is the largest outdoor Taiwanese-themed event in the United States.
“For anyone who has experienced Taiwan firsthand, they know they’ll fall in love with it,” Borcheng Hsu, one of the organizers of Passport to Taiwan, told NBC News. “For those who have not taken the first step, we strongly recommend they come and experience it.”
Passport to Taiwan, first held in 2002, is an annual gathering that takes place around Taiwanese-American Heritage Week, established by Congress in 1999, that aims to introduce Taiwan’s history and culture to New Yorkers unfamiliar with the island nation of 23 million just off the coast of China, Hsu said.
Last year, the five-hour long event attracted around 30,000 visitors, making it the largest Taiwanese festival in the United States based on attendance, Hsu said. Similar Taiwanese festivals were also held in California, Hsu said, including one in San Francisco on May 9 and another in Los Angeles on May 17.
The culture of Taiwan, where Chiang Kai-shek and the then-ruling Nationalists fled after the Communists defeated them in 1949, incorporates elements from its aboriginal population and China, as well as from Japan, which ruled the island as a colony from 1895 to 1945. Much of that is on display at Passport to Taiwan. This year’s festival will feature 19 unique Taiwanese delicacies, performances by dance troupes and musical groups, and exhibitions showcasing high-end products like bicycles made in Taiwan. It will also pay tribute to Taiwanese-American celebrities, including director Ang Lee and basketball star Jeremy Lin.
Cathy Erway, author of "The Food of Taiwan—Recipes from the Beautiful Island," which explores Taiwan’s eclectic culinary traditions, is also expected to be on hand to sell and sign copies of her new book.
“For those people who like to go to street festivals,” Hsu said, “this is not your average street festival.”