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Thousands gather to eat Korean food and culture at the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

Thousands of people gathered on an overcast Saturday afternoon in Presidio’s main park for the fourth annual Chuseok Korea Festival, one of several celebrations of the Mid-Autumn Moon in San Francisco this weekend.

The event, hosted by the Korea Center, featured a stage with a variety of artists, a tent with a live cooking show featuring different types of Korean jang, or fermented paste – several homemade – and booths for artists and small Korean businesses also served as city services.

But the real draw was the food. Rows, numbering more than 50 people, swayed around the field for each of the dozens of mostly Korean food stalls and trucks.

“We were in line for an hour and a half to get this food,” said Grace Yu, carrying a nearly empty bowl of pasta, along with her friend Valerie Sue and cousin Betty Beau. “But it was worth it. We all love Korean food!”

Yu, who studies at the Department of Asian American Studies in San Francisco State, said she was glad to see so many non-Korean people at the festival enjoying and celebrating the culture.

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“I am so happy to have so many people here,” she said. “It was wonderful.”

People waited in line for about an hour to sample Jongga kimchi at the fourth annual Chuseok Bay Area Festival in San Francisco.

Jungho Kim / Special to The Chronicle

It was Cousin Yu Pyo’s idea to come to the festival, she said – a “cousin reunion” of sorts. Beau said she wanted to bring her two young children, Chloe and Bobby, to experience the celebration.

“They’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said. She said their favorite part was probably watching the K-Pop-Up dancers, who performed contemporary dances on the K-pop main stage where people of all ages, including a group of seniors in a special seniors tent, watched clapped and danced on the Length.

Eun Joo Chang, who works as a counselor and volunteer at the Korea Center, said she was pleased to see so many people showing up — they were expecting about 8,000 to 10,000 over the course of the day, she said.

At the same event in 2019, which was the first of its kind in San Francisco, the turnout was about 5,000 people — more than they had expected until then, she said. The pandemic has meant the past two years’ festivals have been virtual, she said, so this year was the first of its kind.

Chuseok, she said, is like Korean Thanksgiving, a very important holiday for the community. She was excited to partner with the Presidio Trust for this year’s event, which she said was instrumental in creating the festival area, which spanned across the entire Presidio Park among the park’s red brick buildings.

“We want to support Korean-American businesses, foodstuffs, and organizations,” she beamed as she looked around. “I am so glad we got this recognition. This is really great for the Korean-American community.”

One of the new features this year, she said, was a station dedicated to writing the wishes of the Chuseok moon, which is believed to be the fullest and brightest of the year, and symbolizes prosperity. The wishes, written on cut-out pieces of neon construction paper, hang on a figurine of wooden clouds hanging below the Chuseok Moon.

Artist Lightning Yumeku attaches wishes written by people to a statue entitled    online schools for psychology  best online schools for psychology  elementary education degree online  bachelor of early childhood education online  early childhood education degree online  best online schools for military  online teaching credential  educational leadership doctoral programs online  online doctoral programs in education  online bachelor's degree in education  online special education degree  online learning platforms for business  early childhood education online  bachelor of education online  the best online schools  online teaching programs  online teaching degree
Artist Lightning Yumeku attaches wishes written by people to a statue entitled “Wishes to the Chuseok Moon” at the fourth annual Bay Area Chuseok Festival in San Francisco on September 10, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special to The Chronicle

“We wanted to do something special to get out of COVID,” she said. “It’s about celebrating the resilience of society.

The written wishes reflected that. Many simply said several words, such as “love, happiness, contentment, health.” One of the children, who signed his name, Lani, but apparently got some help from an adult wrote to the letter, “Hope I get lots of gifts.” Another simply said, “I wish it was for a grandson! Amen!”

Artist Lightning Yumeku, who designed the statue, was helping people connect their desires under the clouds. He said that inspiration from his design came to him quickly, and he even took out the sketchbook from where it appeared.

“I was thinking about what we do in Chuseok, how we send our wishes to the moon,” he said. “From there, it was clear that the moon must be at the top, with everything moving toward it.”

Yumiko explained that although he is not Korean, his best friend since childhood was, so Yumiko learned to talk to his friends’ parents. At that time, he said, his love for Korean culture grew.

“I do 40 art pieces for the Korean Center in addition to that,” he said, before asking a little girl what cloud she wanted her to have.

Jin Ha from San Francisco writes her wish on a piece of paper to attach to a statue    online schools for psychology  best online schools for psychology  elementary education degree online  bachelor of early childhood education online  early childhood education degree online  best online schools for military  online teaching credential  educational leadership doctoral programs online  online doctoral programs in education  online bachelor's degree in education  online special education degree  online learning platforms for business  early childhood education online  bachelor of education online  the best online schools  online teaching programs  online teaching degree
Jin Ha of San Francisco writes her wish on a piece of paper to be attached to the “Wishes to the Chuseok Moon” statue at the 4th Annual Bay Area Chuseok Festival.

Jungho Kim / Special to The Chronicle

For many families, the festival was a chance to meet long-lost friends and family, often exemplified by children screaming and running towards each other, arms outstretched, before holding hands and running to play. But for some, it was a chance to feel closer to home during a vacation that was meant to be spent with family.

Ji Hyun, who lives in San Jose, said he campaigned to come to the event with his family — all of whom were wearing matching Jelly Belly shirts from his recent trip to the Jelly Belly Factory — to experience a piece of where he was from. He came from Korea, in his new home, area Gulf.

“We’re Korean, and it’s too far to go back to visit family in Korea,” he said with a smile as he watched his 6-year-old daughter, Ellie, play with a pink toy she just got. “But that’s cool. We love her. I think she especially loves him.”


Danielle Echeverria is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Tweet embed