Friday, February 11, 2011

TOP STORY > >Lantern fest to light up city

By  jeffrey smith 
Leader staff writer

A showcase of traditional Asian culture and art will be on display during a Lantern Festival being held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19 at Unique Connection Center, 618 West Main St., in the Jacksonville Shopping Center.

The lantern festival is celebrated on the final day of the 15-day Chinese New Year season. The free event is sponsored by Unique Furniture and the University of Central Arkansas’ Confucius Institute.

Sue Khoo, owner of Unique Furniture, has held the Asian festival since 2003.

“I am hosting the Lantern Festival to carry on the tradition of our culture and to build a bridge of history and understanding to all communities. We want to add fun activities for the city of Jacksonville. People come from all over the state to enjoy the excitement. It gives us a chance to showcase the city of Jacksonville,” Khoo said.

Khoo said many years ago, lanterns were used for communication. Red lanterns are a message of a celebration or happiness, while white lanterns mean there is sadness in a family or a death.

The festival will have music, dancing, fashion and several Asian food vendors. There will be paper cutting and origami lessons.

Several students from UCA will be performing during the evening. Yuan Wang, 26, will play the guzheng, a Chinese zither. She began playing the instrument when she was 6 years old. Bo Wan will play the hulusi, a horn instrument with a squash at the end. David Teaster is an American student learning Chinese at UCA, who will play a Chinese song on a guitar.

Ryan Yan will show his martial-arts skills with the nunchakus. He practiced using nunchakus for 12 years. A demonstration of the Korean martial arts Kuk Sool Won is also scheduled. Filipino dancers will be performing as well.

Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School students will perform, “It’s A Small World.” They also are creating the lantern decorations for the festival.

Little Miss Sherwood Alexis Rodriguez, former Little Miss Jacksonville Tearyn Brown and Miss Prairie County Brooklyn Smith will model dresses from Cindy’s pageant dresses. The Jacksonville Police Department will have child ID kits and gun locks.

Khoo’s store, Unique Furni-ture, has been in business since 1996.

“I opened my store in Jacksonville because it is close to the Little Rock Air Force Base, which is a center of many cultures. My store would give the opportunity to purchase items that otherwise could only be purchased overseas,” she said.

“Jacksonville is not a large city, but it’s about 10 minutes from Little Rock and North Little Rock. It is about 20 minutes from the Clinton Library. We are close to other local towns such as Beebe, Searcy, Cabot and even Hot Springs. Our good products and prices make people want to shop with us. Our friendly service keeps customers coming back. It is a privilege to get to know our customers and call them by name,” Khoo said.

Khoo was born in Taiwan. She held nursing, mid-wife and rehabilitations licenses before moving to the United States in 1973. She returned to the classroom earning a college degree in business marketing and studied interior design.

Khoo had a furniture business in Houston, Texas. In 1988, a group of business people in Arkansas visited with her in Texas to learn about setting up a small business and giving financial advice.

A year later, business was going well for the merchants and they invited Khoo to Little Rock, as an appreciation.

In 1996, Khoo wanted to expand her business. She liked visiting Arkansas. After completing a market study, she chose Jacksonville to open her new store. One reason was Little Rock Air Force Base was nearby.

Sue Khoo’s husband, Ray Khoo, is an artist who was born in Malaysia. He graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art in Singapore in 1961. He moved to the U.S. in 1974.

Ray Khoo has held 45 one-man art shows in Singapore; Melbourne, Australia; New York, and Shanghai, China.

Khoo has also had works on display in art shows in Tokyo, Japan; Berlin, Germany, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Last year, Khoo’s art was on display for three months at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in Little Rock.