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They came to remember.

Johnny Taing left his family and his native Cambodia when he was 17, traveling to the United States by himself as a refugee.Taing, now 20, hasn't seen his home or his family since. He came to the Asian Festival at the Salt Palace Saturday to remember the sounds and smells of home. Taing and several other Cambodian buddies stood in a corner of a makeshift food court hungrily eating the lunches they bought at the Cambodian booth.

The sounds of drums, dancing and singing filled the Salt Palace convention hall while thousands of visitors - mostly Asian - milled around the booths.

The pervasive reminders of the colorful culture Taing left behind both comforted and wounded. "It makes me homesick a lot," he said.

The festival made Venus Allen homesick, too. A native of the Philippines, Allen moved to the United States in 1988 to marry her sweetheart, Lyle Allen. The two had met by chance in the Manila Airport when Lyle Allen was in the Philippines on a vacation in 1987.

They courted during his vacation, corresponded for a year, then married. The festival - particularly the food - made Venus Allen homesick for Manila. The hardest part about adjusting to the United States, she said, was the American food.

The couple now live in Logan.

Alan Evans and Matthew Coles lived in Taiwan for two years serving full-time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Back less than a year, the two men came to the festival to reminisce about a country they were already homesick for.

"This is almost exactly like Taiwan," Evans said of the food, dance and costume. "Especially the smells."

The two men took one sniff of the aromas of Asian cooking that filled the Salt Palace and decided the first thing they would do is get something to eat.

"The Taiwanese food is one of the things I miss the most," Coles said.

This year's festival, celebrating the Year of the Horse, featured art, food and crafts from most Asian countries, including China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Samoa and Tonga.

Being born in the year of a given animal is the Asian equivalent of being born in a particular month in the United States. The year of one's birth associates an Asian with the personality traits specific to that year.

The Year of the Horse comes every 12 years. In this century it was 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978 and 1990.

Those born in the Year of the Horse are "in peak condition, cheerful, talkative with an amazing capacity for hard work." But, they tend to be "showy."

The festival's program advised, "Guard against your egotistical nature. You are wise, talented, skilled with your hands, smart with money and fun-loving. You would be happiest as an adventurer, a scientist, a poet or a politician. You get along best with the Tiger, the Dog and the Ram."

"The World is Welcome" proclaimed the banners decorating the festival.

The daylong festival included folk dances, fashion shows, contests, dances and chorales.