DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowans didn’t have to travel far to celebrate Asian American culture.

Thousand packed Western Gateway park over the weekend. Festival organizers said this year’s turnout was their best yet with their record sales, attendance, and with some food vendors selling out quickly.

Last year’s CelebrAsian festival was in October, but organizers said moving it up during a holiday weekend helped with attendance.

“Instead of folks leaving Iowa to go to Chicago, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas City, they’re coming here to us and we love it,” Iowa Asian Alliance Executive director Nu Huynh said. “When attendees are here they are from all over different states and they’re coming to Des Moines to enjoy the celebration during the holiday weekend.”

The festival featured 13 Asian villages and dozens of local food vendors from parts of Asia.

Not only did it allow festival-goers to explore and try new foods, it was also an opportunity to learn more about Asian cultures without paying for a plane ticket.

“It’s different from textbook learning. It’s different from reading. It allows you the opportunity to travel and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and tastes of Asia without having to leave Iowa,” Huynh said. “Here you can visit and immerse yourself in 13 Asian villages and all the different great diversity that the AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islanders] community can offer. And that’s just a wonderful way to experience that education, learning and appreciation.”

Organizers say this event is more than just a festival and it allows for more community engagement.

“This event allows our community members to be engaged to be part of something greater than all of us greater than all the individual communities that have to come together in order to make this festival happen,” Huynh said. “We make a difference by being united in that way and that’s a beautiful thing.”