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'It's home now': Vietnamese community grows more vibrant in Louisville

From newly built temples to traditional dance groups, Vietnamese heritage is seen and heard in Kentuckiana.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, WHAS 11 is highlighting the Vietnamese community in Kentuckiana.

The AAPI community doesn't make up a large portion of Metro Louisville's population -- less than three percent. But out of that group, anywhere from 5,000-7,000 people are of Vietnamese decent, with many being first-generation kids.

But despite being a relatively small group in size, their presence in the community is powerful. From newly built temples to traditional dance groups, Vietnamese heritage is seen and heard across the Metro.

“I’ve seen them get more established," Van Tran said.

People like Van Tran have seen the growth before their very eyes. Tran immigrated to Louisville with her brother in 1984.

"We had no idea where we were going or where it was going to be. We just thanked God we arrived to Louisville," she said, noting she knew very little English and had guidance from volunteer groups to learn her way. "Getting familiar with the area, the culture here. [I had] a lot of help to get where I am today."

Credit: Van Tran
Prominent realtor Van Tran (left) and her family.

Tran is now a prominent realtor, and Louisville has become home. But she hasn't stopped there. For years, she's served on the Board for the Vietnamese Community of Louisville -- currently as vice president -- and has gone beyond simply promoting her heritage.

She's been a connecter across cultures.

In partnership with the city, Tran and others will break ground on the Tri Ân Monument project this summer at Jeffersontown Veterans Memorial Park. After years of planning, construction will start on eight pillars, representing countries that fought alongside South Vietnam in the Vietnam War -- including the U.S.

American Veterans will be on site.

“To appreciate all the American and Vietnamese veterans who fought side by side," Tran said.

She said it’s that kind of awareness, and hand-in-hand effort, that’ll be the difference to continue to grow in numbers.

A notable Vietnamese symbol in Louisville is the Buddha Blessed Temple, located just south of Iroquois Park. Coming up on its three-year anniversary, it transcends a place of worship. It represents heritage, and a channel for inclusion in the city.

The temple is where the River Lotus Lion Dance team practices. They're a first-generation Vietnamese group, lead by organizer Alan Tran.

"Lion Dance creates a lot of energy. [It] makes people feel powerful themselves, and that’s going to translate to good fortune or good luck in their future -- near future," he said.

Credit: WHAS-TV
River Lotus Lion Dance Team

“The music, you hear the loud drums, you hear the gong," said lion dancer Danny Tran.

The group knows how to captivate a crowd, as evidence by their most recent performance at the Big Four Bridge for the International Food Truck Festival.

“I feel like I am giving something to the community," said Christina Tran, a lion dancer. "[To] random strangers, leaving an impact on their day -- that gives me adrenaline. That makes me happy."

The Vietnamese community is working to increase their reach, and add to a foundation that’s already cemented its place in the River City.

Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at IKimMartin@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter 

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