Editor's note: Ace is blogging about being a dad trying to rebound from the coronaivrus pandemic at My Rebound by FOX 17. He desired for his son to feel both pride in and connection to his Filipino heritage, so he founded the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival in 2016. Also a banker, he recently resigned from his position – now staying full-time with his 6-year-old son. He and his wife, son and dog live in Plainfield Township.
As the Grand Rapids Asian Pacific Festival (GRAPF) event got closer, my good friend Adam from Com 616 lined up the perfect public relations tour to spread news of our “Street Food Drive Thru”. This is what I enjoy the most--promoting our event and all the great people involved.
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The Kim Nhung Store donated fruits to be used for a Zoom interview tablescape without even being asked. The vendors stayed up late prepping food from many different traditions. The Ambassador volunteer team was alerted and ready. Even Pikachu had been enlisted.
6 a.m. rolled in and I could already feel my energy rising up. The Ambassador team was facing Fox 17 News for the first of several live check-ins from Riverside Park. The whirlwind of group management, personality management and crowd control gained speed as the vendors began putting up tents and cranking generators. At 10:50 a.m., people in cars were already waiting.
By this time, my wife Jackie and my six-year-old Redd had made it to the park. Jackie was busy cooking food and Redd was dressed up as Ash from the Pokemon series. His VIP role this year was assisting the most famous Pokemon, Pikachu (our festival director Theresa Tran), spread cheer among the cars.
The Health Department representative checked through her lists with Mai, our Chief Operating Officer. Our Head of Ambassadors, Kim, was multitasking with energy while her crew was setting up. We didn't know what to expect but we were all ready to stick through it. When the line of cars reached the end of the outer parking lot by 11:30, I was surprised. I was hoping for a turnout, but this was immediately more than we expected. Switching quickly to add a second lane at 1:00 to handle the traffic, it was cool to see our team working together.
By 2 p.m. the cars had not stopped pulling in. Many of our volunteers were scheduled to leave soon, and all of them needed a break. The sun was brutal that day and there had been no lull in demand. I decided to quickly post a plea for help, because we had cars lined up down the block still waiting to get into the park. Friends began responding right away, and even some in their cars waiting decided to get out and help as they could.
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I was tired, sweaty, and very hot at 3:15 p.m. when we sold out of food. We were shocked and flattered by the turnout, but there was not going to be enough food for everyone. A few cars had waited as long as two hours. So, starting near Monroe Ave, we walked along almost three blocks and apologized to each car one-by-one.
What amazed me from our supporters was their patience and understanding. The people remained positive. It was a new level of experience between our team of volunteers and the people who shared the day with us. We were exhausted and exhilarated by our new step forward, and I was so thankful. To me, this is what community truly means. We all celebrate together.
Thank you very much to all the volunteers, sponsors, vendors, and supporters who shared in the GRAPF Street Food Drive Thru event!