STOCKTON, Calif. — The new year is just beginning for Cambodians. And Stockton, which has a large Cambodian population, is celebrating the Cambodian new year with a three-day festival.

"This is the Cambodian new year. So, we get together as Cambodians or any other races that...want to come and enjoy the Cambodian new year, also," said Monk Sophorn Dy.

Held each year at the Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple in Southeast Stockton, it draws visitors from across California. There are vendors selling clothing, jewelry and traditional Cambodian food.

Vutha Som was selling bamboo barbecue sticky rice.

"It's with sugar cane. So, when you barbecue it, it enhances the taste, the sweetness of it," said Som.

One of the big draws is the more than 90 giant and colorful statues depicting the celebration and life of the Cambodian Buddha. 

The statues were the vision of Monk Kong Tith. He had them constructed and built as teaching tools for Buddhists to visualize the meaning behind Buddist texts.

"We have the history of the Buddha. They read the book. But, they don't see the sculptures. When they understand they read the book. I made a sculpture. They comment. 'Oh, what is it that he meant? Meant like the Buddha go to become the Buddha,'" said Monk Kong Tith.

The festival runs through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day and it is free to attend. Parking is also available for free on the temple grounds.

The Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple is located at 3732 Carpenter Road in Stockton.

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