What I love about the CNY ParadeBy Cuyler Gee
I don’t remember ever not knowing about the Chinese New Year Parade. It was always the icing on the cake after weeks of celebrating the New Year with family. I have memories of being on my Dad’s shoulders on Grant Avenue and seeing the parade coming down the street as a kid. I remember seeing the dragon coming towards me and being frightened of the lion dancers. I also have this vague memory of seeing the 3 stooges in the parade though I’ve never been able to confirm this with anyone, haha.
I have participated in the parade on and off for the last 30 years. First as a participant for many years and a part of many groups. Then, my brother got me into volunteering as a Marshal for the last 5 or 6 years and it’s been a blast.
I enjoy everything about the parade. I have been able to participate in many ways and it is never boring. I have even been able to help the float builder a couple of times and got to design and build a float one year. That was really fun and my family was able to help with the build.
The part I love most is the staging of the parade on Market, that is the best. Meeting and talking to old friends, the anticipation of the start, the bands playing off one another. I tell my friends and coworkers the best place to be is in the staging area right before the parade starts. You get to see all the groups practicing and all the energy coming from all the participants, which to me is the best part. The parade is when everyone has to perform but the staging, that’s where all the fun is.
One year as a participant I was able to do the parade twice. I was a member of the Yellow River Drummers, started by Layton Doung. We were honored for a couple of years to start off the parade. What happens when you start the parade, it begins before the TV broadcast so that we can get to the staging area in front of Macy’s and the TV cameras. So when the broadcast starts everything is queued up, but for the performers, at the start of the parade you would reach the end of the parade in about 45 minutes. In years past, I could go home and watch the bulk of the parade on TV. On this one occasion, my son was part of a lion dance group, Loung Mah, which was stationed mid parade and I had volunteered to help them out with the lion dancing as one of the Dai tau futs. So when I finished the parade with the Yellow River Drummers and helped pack up the gear at the end, I was able to make my way back to the staging area on market, change costumes, and did the parade again with my son.
The Parade means so much to me. It’s all about the family, connecting with old friends, and the heritage of it all. It’s definitely what keeps me coming back year after year.
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