The highly anticipated annual Southwest Chinese New Year Parade captivated the crowd once again. Hours before the start, adults and children began to set up lawn chairs and blankets to claim their space. The streets were filled with children holding pinwheels, throwing poppers, and blowing bubbles. As the sun began to set, one million people gathered along the sidewalks of Chinatown, everyone bundled in coats, hats, and scarves.
With fireworks being set off, San Francisco police officers led the way for the George Washington High School Color Guard and other JROTC groups. The acts to follow were a combination of young children, public figures, police and fire departments, religious groups and local businesses including a motor powered shopping cart from Lucky’s. Each float was elaborately decorated with red and yellow being the dominant colors. Police officers walked the streets, handing out Chinese Good Luck Candy.
Performances from the school children proved to be a hit with the crowd especially with a hundred kids dancing to Katy Perry’s “Firework” and PSY’s “Gangnam Style”. Also, there were fan and ribbon dancers, and children dressed in snake costumes, slithering around. Hundreds of colorful lions swarmed the streets to entertain spectators. Since touching the head of the lion is thought to bring good luck, many spectators were eager to extend a hand every time lion dancers passed. Miss Chinatown U.S.A. 2013, Leah Li, sat high on a golden throne decorated with flowers, draped in a glitter decorated red cloak. All the runner-ups had smiles on their faces as well, wearing beautiful traditional Chinese dresses.
Then there was the grand finale which never ceases to amaze the crowd. Everyone whipped out their phones and cameras to snap photos of this jaw-dropped scene. A sea of small dancing lions and drummers led the way for two oversize dancing lion heads and the 201-foot-long dragon. The sky filled with black smoke as thousands of firecrackers were set off and five lion dancers were perched high on stilts holding scrolls wishing everyone a happy year of the snake. Gung Hay Fat Choy!