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'Texas Sandfest' enjoys popularity, but few Asian visitors

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

05-03-2017 12:13 BJT

By Tom McGregor

Editor's Note: CCTV.com Panview had taken a 2-week tour of South Texas, visiting Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Port Aransas. We witnessed Texas' economic development, visited tourism attractions and saw how Texans and the Chinese are drawing closer together. We will feature a series of articles on China-Texas ties and its impact on the world-at-large.

'Texas Sandfest' held in Port Aransas on April 21-23  Photo/Zhou Yawei

Port Aransas appears to be an idyllic beach town on the Texas Gulf Coast, even though its population hovers at around 3,400.

The small village stood tall on April 21-23, hosting the 21st annual 'Texas Sandfest' with world-renowned master sand sculptors competing in a sand design contest.

This year's event had witnessed a record number of visitors, more than 100,000 adults who reportedly purchased a 3-day pass for $US10. Last year's attendance figures were recorded at 75,000.

Considering Port Aransas’ isolated location; luring in a large crowd forged a significant accomplishment.

Nevertheless, CCTV.com Panview did not see Chinese-American or Chinese-born visitors who attended Texas Sandfest, but a few Vietnamese and Indians were observed there.

‘Texas Sandfest’ held in Port Aransas on April 21-23  Photo/Zhou Yawei

Where are the Asians?

Despite better-than-expected attendance rates, Texas Sandfest organizers should pursue more Asian outreach via Social Media.

"14 years ago when I first volunteered, the event was small and only a few people came." Lisa Shelton, Texas Sandfest volunteer coordinator told CCTV.com. "But starting five years ago, the festival got much larger after we reorganized our board of directors and moved in a different direction."

Her team of 250+ volunteers were successful with an aggressive Social Media campaign and purchased radio and TV ads in the region.

The strategy paid off, but Shelton confessed her team failed to make direct public appeals to attract more Asian visitors. She pledged to connect more closely with the Asian community, especially the Chinese, in the years ahead.

‘Texas Sandfest’ held in Port Aransas on April 21-23  Photo/Zhou Yawei

Sandfest with Chinese connections

Although only a few Asians were seen in attendance, a master sculptor, who prints business cards, entitled, "Amazing Walter," the self-proclaimed, "Grand Poobah - Sons of the Beach, South Padre Island," holds fond memories of China.

"I travel the world competing in contests. It's a family affair, since my wife and children have joined in," he told CCTV.com. "I've been to beaches on the southern and eastern coasts of China."

He added, "My favorite place in China is Hainan Island with its beautiful sand, so ideal for sand sculptures."

Meanwhile, the Nguyen family - son Henry and mother Amy - Vietnamese natives living in Houston, sold Asian BBQ at Texas Sandfest, offering Asian-fusion meals for the masses.

"We are happy to live in Texas," said Henry Nguyen. "The Vietnamese in Houston’s vibrant Asian community are united with people from other Asian countries."

He explained the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese in Houston support each other to achieve harmony for the greater good, as they seek to overlook historical and cultural disputes among neighboring nations.

'Texas Sandfest' held in Port Aransas on April 21-23  Photo/Zhou Yawei

Search for Asian solutions

During CCTV.com's 2-week tour of South Texas, the Chinese media outlet discovered that few Texans are familiar with WeChat, China's most popular Social Media platform, with nearly 1 billion active registered users.

Shelton disclosed she was not aware of WeChat’s existence. Perhaps Texas Sandfest organizers should conduct more research on WeChat and other widely-used platforms in the Far East to deliver direct messages to the Asian community.

Other helpful suggestions would be to invite more master sand sculptors who are of Asian-descent. Texas Sandfest also sponsors a 3-day music concert and it would be encouraging to invite Asian rock groups to perform on stage.


'Texas Sandfest' held in Port Aransas on April 21-23  Photo/Zhou Yawei

More diversity brings higher attendance

Texas Sandfest deserves recognition as an impressive event, which coincides with Texas’ strong economy and rising population in recent years.

Port Aransas has grown in prosperity as well, but for even stronger success, local officials should engage in more Asian outreach, asking them to come and see the beautiful beach town in Texas.

Local authorities should also appoint an 'Asian Ambassador' for Texas Sandfest and other similar activities; and seeking to create sister cities with their Asian counterparts might also be of some help to boost local cities’ popularity in Asia and to create win-win solutions.

 Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

Tmcgregorchina@yahoo.com

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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