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Time Pho Tet 

  This weekend the local Vietnamese community celebrates Tet, the lunar new year, which in 2012 marks the year of the dragon. Like any good holiday party, this one entails plenty of food.

  Mary Queen of Vietnam Church (5069 Willowbrook Drive, 254-5660) hosts the largest local Tet celebration, which typically draws more than 20,000 to its Village de l'Est neighborhood in eastern New Orleans over the three-day event.

  The festival grounds are lined with huge tents where you'll find different crews preparing Vietnamese staples like pho, bun, spring rolls, banh mi sandwiches and festival treats like fried bananas. The tents are filled with long communal tables and a great deal of Heineken is dispatched around them as people slurp and munch.

  "All of the people running the tents and cooking are volunteers who want to help their parish, so they all have different recipes," says Lac Nguyen, one of the event coordinators. "That means you can try different ones from tent to tent."

  The three-day party also features bands, fashion and beauty shows, tents packed with crafts, art and games of chance.

  The entire weekend is a benefit for Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, funding its various community programs. The church offers a Spanish-language mass on Sundays, and for the past few years it's been using the annual Tet celebration to bring more Latino families into the neighborhood fold too. This year, Latino parishioners will prepare tacos, burritos and Mexican-style goat stew, alongside the Vietnamese noodles, fish sauces and exotic eats.

  Admission and parking are free. Bring cash for the food, games and concessions. The Tet celebration is held from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.


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