Last weekend was the time to celebrate for many Chinese Americans. While the Year of the Dragon was welcomed by all of San Francisco with the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade, the holiday was observed on the streets of Chinatown on both Feb. 11 and 12 with its 23rd Annual Chinatown Community Street Fair.
As one of many events Chinatown has in celebration of the Lunar New Year, according to the Chinatown San Francisco official website, this two-day event draws about 500,000 people every year. As the oldest Chinatown in the United States, it’s been said that the street fair is one of its most exciting events of the year.
Food, entertainment and opportunities to immerse in Chinese culture were available for attendees to enjoy, such as lantern and kite making, acrobatics, folk dance performances and more.
With the sun beaming down during the morning of Feb. 12, the narrow streets of Chinatown were already crowded with people constantly brushing shoulders with one another. People from all over, from locals to overseas visitors, were there to welcome in the Lunar New Year.
Several sponsor booths were on display alongside Grant Avenue, leading into the rest of the street fair, and included companies such as Toyota, Hyundai and McDonald’s, which is the main sponsor for the Chinese New Year Parade.
Going forward onto Grant Avenue, along with other streets as well, smaller booths were set up for attendees to check out; selling orchids, goldfish and Chinatown knick knacks. There were even booths where services were held to check one’s blood pressure and give massages as well.
One asset that was constantly present during the entirety of the Chinese Community Street Fair was music. From live performances by local singers to side street performances on the erhu (two-string fiddle), there was never a silent moment during the event.
Some of the most memorable stage performances were those of the White Crane Lion and Dragon Dance School. Having performed the night before in the Chinese New Year Parade, the 42-year-old performance group put together their skills of dance and martial arts in their well-choreographed, in-tune routines dancing to the sounds of drums, cymbals angongs.
Besides being an entertaining event, the fair showcases Chinatown’s long history within San Francisco by continuing this centuries-old celebration as one of the largest celebrations of Asian culture in the West.
While the Chinatown Community Street Fair isn’t as highly promoted as the Chinese New Year Parade, attending and experiencing the event gives understanding of the culture within Chinatown.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, February 16th, 2012 at 3:25 pm.