As a swirl of cultures snaked through the streets of Chinatown in downtown Fresno, 9-year-old Arieta Shipman pranced alongside, watching wide-eyed.
“It makes my heart kind of jump a little — in a good way.”
She saw young women twirling in bright flowing folklórico gowns, Japanese taiko drummers, and a black worship group rocking back and forth — arms raised — praising God. She saw hula dancers, shiny cars, football fan clubs and men disguised as dragons who dipped and skipped and brought faces of mythic beasts close enough to nuzzle.
The 15th annual Chinese New Year Parade and Festival on Saturday celebrated much more than the Year of the Ram in the Chinese zodiac.
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“We celebrate in Chinatown in honor of everyone — all the cultures who call Chinatown home. … It’s always been very diverse,” said parade founder Kathy Omachi, this year’s grand marshal. Nonprofit Chinatown Revitalization Inc. hosts the parade that started 15 years ago with just four floats.
Hundreds lined up Saturday to see this year’s 26-float parade that covered just a few blocks, the bulk along F Street between Mariposa and Kern streets.
Tala Shipman, 6, was captivated by the Asian drumming. “Sometimes when they play the drums I feel something in my body. It tickles my stomach.”
Arieta said of the parade, “I like to see all the things happening and it’s so exciting.”
“There’s so much culture here in Fresno,” said Tala and Arieta’s father, Michael Shipman, as he watched the parade with 2-year-old son, Folau, on his shoulders chanting, “Da, da, da.” The family of five recently bought a house in downtown Fresno after they relocated from Fig Garden.
Another father, Rolando Moncivais, brought his family from northwest Fresno.
“It brings us to downtown, we don’t come out here very much,” Moncivais said of the parade. “It’s nice to see the traditions of different cultures staying alive.”
Across the street, 9-year-old Leilani Stovall was swaying and clapping along to a performance from Purpose II Praise School of Dance. Leilani said the parade was “cool” and the dancers made her think of Jesus.
“It makes me happy,” she said of the parade. “It makes me smile.”