Sunthi Chookiatsirichai held up a wooden container with dozens of red-tipped sticks, each with a sacred number.
"Do you want to know your fortune?" he asked hundreds of attendees at the 15th annual Dragon Festival at St. Paul's Phalen Lake.
The two-day festival celebrates Asian culture with traditional lion dances, karate demonstrations and an ongoing 28-team dragon boat race.
Chookiatsirichai, who serves on the board of the Chinese Senior Citizens Council, said the festival is a great way for immigrant seniors, their families and others to celebrate Asian culture. It's free and open to the public.
His organization bused dozens of seniors to the event to enjoy the celebrations.
In addition to telling people their fortunes, Chookiatsirichai helped attendees figure out their Chinese name. Two women would then draw the name in calligraphy. Attendees could also learn how to use chopsticks, color dragon crowns or get healing exercise tips from other exhibitors.
The highlight of the festival is watching an event modeled after a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition: teams of 20 people racing down Lake Phalen in colorful wooden dragon boats. There are 18 paddlers, a flag catcher and a drummer who keeps the team in rhythm.
The competing teams were mostly corporate and community organizations that often use the race as a team-building exercise, said event volunteer Judy Hohmann.
Hohmann said the event started as a way of bringing together various Asian cultures, including Hmong, Thai and Chinese.
"We shouldn't be so separated," Hohmann said.
She said many people attend the festival for the food. Cedric Riley, of Brooklyn Center, and his two children spent part of Saturday afternoon eating Korean chicken and watching the boat races. Riley said the experience was a way to expose his children to other cultures.
"America is such a big melting pot, and we get to enjoy other people's heritage and cultures," Riley said. "This is bringing the world to my children."
The event continues Sunday, with 12 teams competing in the dragon boat race and various martial arts demonstrations.