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Passport to Taiwan, New York’s Largest Asian American Festival, Celebrates Two Decades of Festivities

Published: May 28, 2024
Crowds descend on the Passport to Taiwan festival held in Union Square on May 26, 2024 in New York City. (Image: Vision Times/Anna Lin)

On May 26 the Passport to Taiwan festival — New York State’s largest Asian American festival — kicked off in Union Square, attracting throngs of curious onlookers seeking a taste of what Taiwan has to offer. 

This year the festival is celebrating its 20th year of operations, having held its first event in 2002. 

The festival has its roots In 1992 when then-president Bush signed Act HR5572, designating the month of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Month. In 1999, Congress designated the second week of May Taiwanese American Heritage Week, to recognize Taiwanese American contributions to the community.

Since its initiation, the Passport to Taiwan festival has grown and become the largest outdoor Taiwanese American event in the entire United States and in New York State it is viewed as the largest Asian American festival.

This year’s feature presentation — courtesy of the Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC) — was “Impressions of Taiwan” performed by the Ten Drum Art Percussion Group.

“The Ten Drum Art Percussion Group is a music troupe based in southern Taiwan that aims to promote local culture and invigorate Taiwanese percussion art,” the festival’s website reads. 

The troupe aims to produce pieces highlighting Taiwanese history, folktales, and culture through diverse drum performances.

The group was established in 2000 by Hsieh Shi. 

According to the troupe’s website, “In the eyes of the troupe founder, the Chinese character shi (十) — which stands for the number “ten” — appears as if two drumsticks were stacked on top of each other, thus he named the group ‘Ten Drum’ to signify his hopes of making percussion music thrive all across Taiwan.”

Taiwanese musical group, the Ten Drum Art Percussion Group wows crowds at the 2024 Passport to Taiwan street festival, held in Union Square, New York on May 26, 2024. (Image: Vision Times/Anna Lin)


Incredible performances

The afternoon’s Master of Ceremonies was Taiwanese actor, singer, dancer and teaching artist Fang Tseng (曾桂芳).

Her credits include Mulan the Musical (Singapore tour), Starry Memory (national tour), War+Lovers (theater row) and Bliss Street (theater for the New City).

She teaches theater and dance at the Taiwan Center and YWCA Queens.

Also performing was James Chuang, a rising star in the Taiwanese community.

His unique stage performances are rooted in traditional Taiwanese songs with a different slant and he has been welcomed in venues throughout the east coast.

Taiwanese rapper, Dwagie, was also featured. He is best known for using Taiwanese in his performances. His first solo album, Lotus from the Tongue, has been billed as the first full rap album in the Chinese-speaking world. 

Also hitting the stage was Happiness 2 Plus 1, a trio consisting of a first grader and two third graders who share their happiness and love for their culture through song.

The trio won both the First Place and Most Popular awards at the 2024 Chinese Karaoke Film Contest, held in the Greater Washington D.C. area. 


A festival goer holds up a recent copy of the Vision Times newspaper at the 2024 Passport to Taiwan festival, held in Union Square in New York City on May 26, 2024. (Image: Vision Times/Anna Lin)

Food, food and more food

No festival would be complete without a variety of foods to enjoy and the Passport to Taiwan festival didn’t disappoint.

The festival featured a number of tastes from home and abroad including Apou’s Taste, home cooked food “just like from Grandma,” as well as Coco Fresh Tea & Juice, bubble tea that serves up fun vibes and an exceptional experience. 

Old Country Jerky was on site serving up its signature Taiwanese style jerky. Taiwanese jerky is tender, moist and flavorful, a significantly different experience from jerky that can be found in the United States.

Festival goers also had the chance to enjoy a cup of tea from the Cozy Tea Loft, an authentic Taiwanese boba tea shop “with customizable, fresh, handmade, high-quality drinks made with ingredients shipped directly from Taiwan.”

Master Huang was also on site, serving up delicious bowls of noodles and soup in addition to braised dishes and a variety of fried foods and snacks.

The edgy, Cat Fight Coffee, was also in attendance. Cat Fight Coffee, based in New Jersey, offers coffee with Taiwanese ingredients, and proudly carries coffee from Taiwan. 

First Coffee was also at the festival. Founded in 2020 the company uses 100 percent Taiwanese coffee beans, and cooperates with world champion roasters and baristas to select their products and bring their specialty coffee to the world. 

Festival organizers were thrilled to continue the festival’s long standing traditions, writing on their website, “We are grateful for the ongoing support we have received over the years as we celebrate two decades of celebration. Thank you for your participation in the festival. Enjoy! Thank you!”