Tens of thousands of Vietnamese American Catholics have made their annual pilgrimage to Carthage, Missouri for Marian Days. The 40-year-old event hasn't stopped growing in popularity.
"It's getting bigger and bigger every year. Every year, more people come, and we're starting to run out of space here!" says church volunteer Loc Pham.
Marian Days is more than just a celebration of Vietnamese Catholicism. It's a celebration of Vietnamese culture, and a fantastic opportunity to sample some authentic Vietnamese cuisine like mouthwatering pho!
"Pho in Vietnam is a comfort food, and so a lot of people eat it in order to kind of relive the memories that they had in Vietnam, especially if they were immigrants that were coming over to the United States," said pho server Anna Dang.
Many attendees say Marian days has a family reunion feel to it, and that's no accident. The festival is ultimately about strengthening one's relationship with God, and festival leaders believe familial support is a big part of that.
"The purpose of Marian Days is to renew the spirituality of the people during the year, so they come here to conference, to attend masses, and just to renew, their spiritual side," said Father John Tran.
And when surrounded by thousands of friends, family, and loved ones, many attendees feel they're already on the right track to renewing that spirituality.