About 2,000 people came out to Fresno’s Chinatown on Saturday for the 17th annual Chinese New Year parade and festivities.
The diverse crowd stretched out onto F street between Kern and Tulare Streets, taking in the traditional music and colorful dances.
A short parade waltzed through around noon, featuring a golden dragon and hula dancers. A man donning a bright red lion costume performed a traditional dance amid drumming and noisemakers. The lion entered businesses where he “ate” heads of lettuce, and threw them around the room for good luck.
Kathy Omachi, the Fresno Chinatown Revitalization board president, said the parade was a success, especially compared to the first. “We started 16 years ago with about four entrants and 15 people,“ she said. “(It was) about a 10-minute parade.”
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It’s important because Fresno’s Chinatown does exist.
Kathy Omachi, president of Fresno’s Chinatown Revitalization
This year, there were 35 entrants and dozens of booths selling food, clothing and toys. This year marks the Year of the Rooster on the Chinese calendar.
Omachi, who has roots in Chinatown, said for the first 13 years, there wasn’t any Chinese or Asian food booths at the festival. “We told people they would have to go to the different restaurants; because they’re mom-and-pop businesses, they really couldn’t close to come out.”
Full Circle Brewing Co., located just blocks away, had a booth selling root beer, drinking glasses and T-shirts. Full Circle volunteer Natalie Mayhan said it was the brewery’s first year at the festival.
Coinciding with the event, Full Circle released a new imperial stout named Underground Chinatown. Mayhan said the brewery aims to be more involved with the festival next year. “We’re excited about the changes,” she said.
Omachi said since the mid-1860s, 11 different communities have called the section of downtown home. “Even though we’re called Chinatown, it’s about the diversity that has existed in Fresno for years,” Omachi said.
Donations, said Omachi, have kept the parade going. “We don’t overextend ourselves,” she said. “Sponsors like PG&E help. We make sure we have an ongoing source of being able to go forward.”
As Florence Bogosian watched with her family the last of the colorful parade trail around Kern Street, she couldn’t help but be amazed. Bogosian is from Fresno and said it was her first time attending the parade. Her family enjoyed it so much, she wants to return for next year’s. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
Omachi is hopeful the parade will continue to grow in coming years. She said the festival gives Chinese children a sense of who they are and is nostalgic for Chinese seniors. Omachi believes no matter how small it may be, the celebration matters to the community.
“It’s important because Fresno’s Chinatown does exist,” she said.