Festivalgoers celebrate Khmer New Year at last year’s festival and parade. This year’s celebration takes place from noon to 5 p.m. at Riverbank Park in Westbrook. Contributed / Photo by Peau Khan

Khmer Maine and Watt Samaki Temple will celebrate the Khmer New Year Saturday afternoon with a festival and parade at Westbrook’s Riverbank Park.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll draw out a lot of people,” said Navan Leng, president of Watt Samaki Temple in Buxton, adding that all are welcome to “experience our culture and enjoy our traditional food.”

Khmer New Year is a Cambodian holiday that marks the end of the traditional harvest season, and a period of rest for farmers. This will be the second time that the festival has been held in Westbrook, where the temple plans to build a cultural and community center.

Offerings of rice are given to monks during the Khmer New Year celebration last year in Westbrook. The offering of food to Buddhist monks is a way for families to reach out to ancestors. Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald

In addition to the Cambodian New Year, this time of year also marks the new year for Vietnamese and Thai populations, said Marpheen Chann, executive director of Khmer Maine, which is collaborating with the temple on the celebration.

“Before that, we just helped the Cambodian temple in Buxton put on their ceremonies, but we’re a community organization, so we wanted to help organize something public for the broader community to come celebrate and learn more about Khmer New Year,” he said.

Last year’s festival, the first held in Westbrook, drew about 300 people.


The Khmer New Year 2024 Festival and Parade will be held from noon to 5 p.m., with the parade at 1, dance performances at 2 and music at 3.

The parade will be broken into sections, Chann said, with the first being the traditional parade led by seven angels depicted by girls in traditional outfits, along with temple elders and monks.

“They’re heralding the new year and signaling luck and good fortune,” he said. “Monks will do water blessings where they splash water on folks.”

Rotanak Vuthy of Westbrook dresses in a Hanuman costume before performing a dance at last year’s Khmer New Year festival. Hanuman is a Hindu god. Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald

The next section will feature Khmer Maine and Angkor Dance Troup, then any public officials who wish to join.

The festival includes a special kids section, Cambodian food stands, a market and food trucks. A family will be cooking food to benefit the temple, Chann said.

The food is one of the event’s biggest draws, he said, and offers a chance for people to enjoy Cambodian and Asian cuisines.


“Growing up in school, people would complain about how our lunches smelled,” he said, and events like this allow “younger generations to see that things have changed, and that Americans like Khmer food.”

In addition to food and the market, there will be traditional games and a Cambodian band.

“It’s a great event for anyone to come out to. It’s a community event and a day of celebration like any other new year,” said Christina Khin, a board member at Khmer Maine. “I’m really excited about bringing on more vendors to the event this year.”

Khin said the day “brings together the Khmer community and people outside of it.”

For more information, go to kny2024.com.

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