Parade Perks and RitualsBy Ferrier Le
Growing up in the Bay Area, I had only seen the KTVU broadcast and had a general understanding that the SF CNY Parade might be the largest of its kind outside of China. It was an event that I looked forward to watching with my parents. However, I had never aspired to be in the Parade or even help as a volunteer. That, of course, changed after becoming friends with Ali Hu and John Li and eventually learning that the Parade was a big deal for them.
My first chance at volunteering happened in 2011 when John messaged me the day before the event:
John: Want to help at the Chinese New Year’s Parade?
Me: When? I’m still traveling and will back to SF in the morning
John: It would be tomorrow afternoon
Me: Probably not, but what would I have to do?
John: Lead a section and just tell people what to do
Me: Sounds fun, maybe next year?
John didn’t extend me an invitation the following but somehow remembered in 2013. He sold the Parade perks to me where he repeated I would get to “tell people what to do” and also get an official “Parade Marshal” jacket.
I was assigned to Floats. It was an exhausting yet unforgettable experience. John and Ali picked me up at 9 AM, and we dropped by Chinatown to pick up our parking pass and radios. From there, we drove over to Main Street, where we waited for the 20-something odd floats to arrive so that we could direct the drivers to their designated parking spots. Once all of the floats had been accounted for, we rushed back to join John and Ali’s family for lunch at New Woey Loy Goey and fill ourselves with fried wonton soup, chicken wings, beef chow fun, and panfried noodles. Right after lunch, we walked down to 2nd and Market to check in before heading back to the floats to prepare for the Parade’s start. With traffic on Market Street blocked off, we began to direct the floats onto Market street. About an hour later, I remember finally breathing a sigh of relief and allowing myself to soak in the mind-boggling display of visuals, sounds, and energy that accumulated up and down Market Street. The remainder of our duties was to escort the floats to the formation area and subsequently escort them along the parade path.
After nine years, it has been more than just volunteer work for me. It has been a privilege to walk in the Parade, where I look forward to putting on my Parade Marshal jacket every year as it has become a tradition for my closest friends and me. We’ve also started our little ritual of meeting up at Grasslands afterward to numb our aching feet over a few drinks and take turns recounting our parade experiences. This year will be especially meaningful since we skipped last year, and it will be a warm reunion with familiar friends and masked faces that we haven’t seen in two years!
Interested in volunteering? Email us at email@example.com