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Han Woo-Ri Korean festival debuts this week

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

Now that Korean dignitaries, athletes and performers have taken long flights to Washington and found their way to Federal Way for the city’s inaugural Han Woo-Ri Korean Athletics and Cultural Festival, festival planners are hoping there’s enough buzz about the four-day, $500,000 event to bring visitors to see it.

This might be the most tense part of planning a large event –– waiting to see if people will come.

Patrick Doherty, the city’s director of economic development and the lead city official for organizing the festival, said advance ticket sales are lower than planners hoped. But he added most people don’t pre-purchase tickets to a festival the way they do for a concert that might sell out, so festival organizers don’t know what to expect.

“We’re crossing our fingers as to whether anyone will know about it or will care to show up,” Doherty said.

In 2003, city officials used local lodging tax revenue to hire an event planning consulting firm to help find a signature event that would showcase Federal Way and draw large numbers of visitors to the city. The consultants reported that a Korean festival might do the trick.

Last year, the City Council authorized spending $176,000 in lodging tax revenue –– the biggest allocation to a single event in city history –– to create a local festival to rival large festivals sponsored by other cities.

Festival officials anticipated conservative corporate sponsorship and a modest turnout the first year –– between 5,000 and 10,000 people –– but they’re hoping both will grow to big-name, big-money international corporate sponsors and at least 20,000 visitors.

The $176,000 city allocation caused several council members to balk –– the council discussed postponing the festival because of the economic climate, and a few voted against it –– but planners said this year will be the most expensive because of the startup costs. By the third year, they expect the city’s cost for the festival will be closer to $25,000.

Festival planners said they have raised about $425,000 in government and corporate sponsorships and in-kind donations.

The festival, which features a variety of events –– from a gala opener to a Korean film festival, traditional dancing, a tae kwon do demonstration, a golf tournament and a soccer match –– kicks off this morning with some children’s programs presented by Seattle International Children’s Festival.

Because it’s so spread out with events at Celebration Park, Federal Way Memorial Stadium, Washington National Golf Course in Auburn, the Sears parking lot at The Commons at Federal Way and the theater at Gateway Center, Doherty said city officials weren’t anticipating traffic problems on South 320th Street or heavy pedestrian traffic.

The Police Department has scheduled officers to provide security for the events, he said.

A U.S.-Korea trade seminar and luncheon is scheduled tomorrow at La Quinta Inn in Federal Way. The seminar will begin at 10 a.m. and will focus on trade opportunities with Korea.

Business dignitaries, visiting athletes and performers, and business and community leaders will meet at 6:30 tomorrow evening in the Asiana Airlines tent at the Han Woo-Ri Festival Village for the opening gala and a dinner of American or Korean fare.

The gala will feature the festival’s only full performance of the Gangwon Provincial Arts Group, 30 artists performing traditional Korean music and dance, followed by shorter performances by the contemporary percussion group Balkwang, and the classical-meets-modern troupe Goo-oun Mong, which merges contemporary music, art and multi-media.

The film festival begins this afternoon at the Gateway Movie 8 theaters with Arirang: The Korean-American Journey, a 108-minute documentary by award-winning, Hawaii-based filmmaker Tom Coffman. Made in 2002, the film chronicles 100 years of Korean immigration to the United States, examining historical events and the perspective of the immigrants who returned to Korea.

Between today and the festival’s close Sunday, a variety of artists and performers are scheduled at Han Woo-Ri Village, Korean bonsai master Su Hyung Yoo demonstrate the art of bonsai, Jin-a Park Baker performing a traditional Korean tea ceremony, and Myung Soo Song presenting a traditional Korean wedding ceremony.

The Chi Learning Center in Han Woo-Ri Village will give visitors the opportunity to try things themselves, including fan-, lucky bag-, or kite-making and traditional drawing.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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