GT VSA’s Moon Festival shines through the rain

Dancers perform Múa Lân in an enthusiastic number. Also known as “lion dance,” the art form draws inspiration from the motions of a dragon and is meant to bring good luck and fortune. // Photo by Tyler Parker Student Publications

In the drizzling rain on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 13, Jackets gathered for the 2023 Moon Festival. The event, hosted by the GT Vietnamese Student Association (GT VSA), marked the celebration of Têt Trung Thu — the Vietnamese version of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in many East Asian cultures.

Even though the moon could not be seen through the rain clouds, the Mid-Autumn Festival marks the night when the moon is said to shine the brightest all year. 

The Moon Festival is a long-standing tradition at Tech. This year marks the 40th year of celebration at the Institute, according to Emily Yan, third-year BMED and Co-President of GT VSA.

The Moon Festival at Tech not only celebrates the mid-autumn festival but also provides a platform for cultural exchange. GT VSA provided free food and live performances to share their culture with passerbys and those who had planned to attend the event for months.

The Moon Festival event attracts non-Tech students like Lola Pham, third-year BIOL at Kennesaw State University (KSU). 

“I came in 2021 and knew I just had to come again when I heard about it. I love watching all the dances and performances. Unfortunately, I had to enjoy the performances while eating a soggy sandwich,” Pham said.

Pham was not the only one who struggled with the wet conditions. Volunteers gathered before the event, adorned with ponchos and umbrellas, to hang paper lanterns, which occasionally fell across pedestrian paths before being replaced more permanently.

Dedicated volunteers lined the muddy Tech Green with tables of prepared food, which they covered with aluminum foil and plastic tablecloths to protect against the adverse weather.

The menu, provided by VN Tofu, consisted of egg rolls, Vietnamese sandwiches, noodles or rice with the option of meat and sesame balls for dessert.

Scores of Tech students formed lines for their chance at free food and to see the live performances. Students packed underneath the Clough overhang, craning their necks for a good view of the performances. Some students gave up on their ground-based efforts and climbed to a higher floor of Clough to look down on the performances from above.

The performers demonstrated a wide range of talents that was reflective of the Institute’s diversly talented student body.

Most of the performances were dance routines set to K-Pop and V-Pop songs. The groups that performed included the Filipino Student Association (FSA)’s Tinikling group, Tekstyles and Seoulstice — all dance groups based at the Institute.

GT VSA’s own Múa Lân (Lion Dance), Fan Dance and Modern Dance teams also performed. “This year was the debut of the Lion Dance Team, which is a traditional dance very true to Vietnamese culture,” Yan said.

Yan also emphasized that the dance teams are completely student-run from start to finish. 

“There is no outside choreographer. The students do the choreography from start to finish, planning the practices and booking everything in the CRC. I’m so incredibly proud of them,” Yan said.

One unique performance by the GT Dragon Flyers group involved a choreographed routine with Chinese yo-yos. Performers flung their lighted yo-yos into the air and around their bodies, always landing back on the string.

Several other Tech organizations attended the event, including the Chinese Student Association, Delta Phi Lambda, the Korean Undergraduate Student Association and FSA. These organizations hosted tables near the Clough overhang without additional shelter from the roofing. 

Each table had a carnival-like game where students could take their shot at winning a prize and learn more about the organization. One game involved transferring a number of buttery noodles from one container to another only using chopsticks.

Yan told the Technique that GT VSA raised $7,500 from local Vietnamese businesses for the event, with leftover proceeds donated to the charity Messengers of Love, which supports orphaned children in Vietnam. A full list of sponsors can be found on VSA’s Instagram, @GT.VSA.

The Technique also spoke to Yan about why GT VSA hosts this event and what it means for students in attendance.

“We bring this piece of culture to Georgia Tech with the hope that it can help unify different people from all different cultures. We understand that there are a lot of students who have work and studies that cannot have something like this brought to them,” Yan said, elaborating on the details beyond what the public sees.

According to Yan, access to this type of cultural exchange is important because, “a well-rounded knowledge of different cultures and traditions helps us become better students and value unity in the community.”

Yan also described the impact that the rain had on the planning and organization of the event, involving a vote by the GT VSA executive board in order to cope.

“Our last executive board meeting was on the 10th, and we had to decide that night whether we were going to continue with the event. At that point, we were fairly certain it would not rain, and we had food from our caterer that may have spoiled if we didn’t continue the event, so we decided to carry on as planned,” Yan said.

Yan explained that it was due to the effort from every member of GT VSA at every rank in the organization that the event was able to proceed in the rain. 

“There are some things that we can’t account for last minute, but the student leaders that we had from our Executive Board members, leadership’s committees or our 100 volunteers pulled through. Everyone worked so hard to make this event a success,” Yan said, praising the community for its meticulous work.

The Moon Festival and GT VSA give students a sense of belonging and community at Tech. Yan explained that when she entered the Institute, she was without a community like VSA; now, she hopes GT VSA can provide  it for other students.

“VSA is a place where I want people to find community, and it’s something that I lacked going into GT since when I came to GT, it was the year after COVID struck. VSA provides students from all different backgrounds an opportunity to have a sense of community and acceptance if they are willing to
get involved,” Yan said.

As light reflected off the sidewalk, pedestrians skirted around the puddles, fiddling with their plates of food in one hand and umbrellas in the other. Although the moon itself was not visible for much of the evening through the clouds, applause and cheers pierced the night air.