J4: Top 5 Reasons Why I Keep Going Back

  With Maa Vue and Cody Lee.  J4 2013.

With Maa Vue and Cody Lee.  J4 2013.

  • J4
  • July 4th
  • Tshav npas
  • Ntsuslais Foj 
  • Soccer tournament
  • 35th Annual Hmong International Freedom Celebration Soccer Tournament

So many names, but I know it as the biggest Hmong summer event that draws tens of thousands of Hmong people from all around the world for just two days.  

My first memory of J4 was when I was a little kid -- little enough for my parents to leave me for the day in Eau Claire, WI with my grandparents.  I knew they were going to Xees Phaus (St. Paul) for something special, because they were very happy.  I don't remember crying when they left (typical of little Pagnia though), but I remember waiting for them to return and longing for the day to be over.  

With J4 only an hour away (if you go 75 on Interstate 94), J4 has become a summer tradition for my family since before I was even allowed to go.  Despite the heat, burning sun, crowded shopping areas, and difficult climb to get a cup of nab vam, I cannot tell you when was the last time my family missed J4.  

No matter where we are in the world, my siblings and I somehow find ourselves back at J4 every single summer.  

Here are the top 5 reasons why:

1. Catching a soccer game.  The obvious one.  It's even better when you know the people in the game.  Let's just say, the, um...for the lack of a better word, more competitive Pagnia comes out.

2.  Music.  This is the best time of the year for Hmong music listeners.  Artists are dropping new albums, performing their new material off and on the J4 grounds (like yours truly -- check out my gig on July 4th!), and they've come from all over the world.  From bands to solo artists to new artists, it's like an unofficial Hmong music festival that's been happening since the time of Tsoom Hmoob, one of the very first Hmong bands in the US.  After meeting the artist and having him sign the album, the next best part is popping it in on the car ride home and making it a part of your summer soundtrack.  

  Rocking the stage with The Sounders. J4 2010.

Rocking the stage with The Sounders. J4 2010.

3.  Shopping with my mom.  I don't know about you, but shopping with my mom at J4 is 10x better than by myself at J4. (Although at age 15, I wanted to be free as a bird.)  Now that I am older and have a deeper appreciation for Hmong apparel and accessories, my mom is the one I trust in picking out the right phuam or xauv.  (She's also the nicest haggler I've ever met.)

4.  CHAT Freedom Fest.  Did you know there is a festival inside of the J4 festival?  That's what CHAT Freedom Fest is -- a festival celebrating the arts in the Hmong community.  They bring in current artists to play live onstage, offer opportunities for you to discover new visual artists, and many more fun, family-friendly activities.  It's part of your J4 admission, so you have absolutely no reason not to check it out!  

5.  Family & friends.  This is my all-time favorite reason to go.  It's like a family reunion where you don't know who's been invited or has RSVP'd.  I love seeing my Yawm Txiv in his all-black suit walking around with one bottle of water, because every year, I'm grateful to know he's doing well and still knows that I'm Mos tus ntxhais.  And if you call me family or a friend, I can't wait to see you this year!

  With the talented Kouser Yang & Yami Lee.  J4 2013.

With the talented Kouser Yang & Yami Lee.  J4 2013.

Your turn!  Will you be going this year?  Why do you attend J4?  Or if you're like my family, why do you keep returning year after year?  

Leave a comment below to celebrate not only one of the Hmong people's biggest summer events, but also freedom!  

Until next time...

Dream BIG,