Parade Heroesby Beverly Lee
The Chinese New Year Parade, exhilarating live entertainment for a combined viewership of over one million street spectators and television audiences annually, is realistically organized by a group of about 200 people. These folks, most of whom are volunteers, attend weekly or monthly meetings during the period September-March. The core group is the parade committee of 12-15 community-minded people. Like the arms of two octopi, each of these committee members reach out to family, friends, and work associates for their help, advice, free labor, meals together, and anything and everything. Almost all of the parade committee members have real jobs that support their families. Yet, they also contribute full-time hours to make the parade happen.
Going back to the mid-1980s, these are some of the parade heroes I’m talking about:
Wayne Hu, Parade Director until 2007, infused the Chinese New Year Parade with ideas and action that led to its transformation from a small community event to a world-class event. His father, Jackson Hu, was one of the original organizers of the parade under the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 1958.
David Lei, our cultural expert, ensured that the path we followed adhered to the tales and traditions of the old country.
Calvin Li was both a cultural expert and the go-to person for solutions to logistical problems that accompany humungous public events like ours.
Peggy Kennedy, our original marketing director for 33 years, brought in the commercial sponsors that funded the entire Chinese New Year Festival, one that is unrivaled by any other big city in the United States.
Don Whiteley and Eric Martin, the Argonne Parades team from Atlanta, taught many of us how to run a parade that is also successfully broadcasted live on television.
Chinatown Community Development Center – Gordon Chin, Enid Lim, Norman Fong, Phil Chin, Malcolm Yeung, and more than 100 other volunteers from Chinatown CDC managed the reviewing stand and bleachers on Kearny Street as well as the MC stations at each set of bleachers. Both Enid and Norman served as the official MC’s at the reviewing stand.
Ed Lee was the parade judging coordinator who became the Mayor of San Francisco. What a promotion!
Arnold Chin, the successor to Wayne Hu as the parade director, continued Wayne Hu’s vision and added some of his own twists for seven more spectacular parades.
Harlan Wong picked up where Arnold Chin left off in 2013 while throwing in his own brilliant flashes over the following eight parades.
Dave Thomas and Stephanie Mufson were the float builders who changed the look of the parade floats, outdoing themselves year after year.
Corbett Lee, a photographer whose work is sought for publication in numerous magazines, gave his total attention to the Chinese New Year Festival’s events.
Nanci Chin was the graphic artist who brought the festival’s print media to new levels with the introduction of colorful and informative brochures, posters, and souvenir books.
Tom Chow was the bank executive who gave up his lunch hours to supervise workers at the dragon warehouse and organized hundreds of high school students over the years to carry the banners and flags in the parade.
Gerald Lee brought his community muscle and pulled in volunteers, float drivers, and the vehicles needed to make the parade floats move in the right direction.
And don’t forget those behind the scenes who made everything else happen:
From the Chinese Chamber of Commerce – Rose Pak, Ed Lew, Rita Lopes, Lainar Chan, Mavis Ngo, Michael Lau
From the Chinese New Year Parade Office – Karen Eng, Donna Ng, Emi Tom, Beverly Lee