Chinatown parade continues to grow in popularity

January 27, 2016

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun |

Vancouver’s Chinatown will once again play host to the annual Spring Festival Parade to celebrate the Lunar New Year, but organizers say the event’s popularity means that some hopeful participants have been turned away.

This year’s parade (the 43rd edition since it started in 1974) will take place on Sunday, Feb. 14 and feature the usual array of dragon- and lion-dancers and other Chinese cultural performers, as well as representatives from a growing list of other ethnic communities.

Jun Ing, vice-president of the Chinese Benevolent Association and the parade’s chief coordinator, said more than 70 groups totalling 3,500 people will march in the procession. He is expecting 100,000 onlookers, similar to last year’s figure.

“The parade has what you would call humble beginnings,” said Ing, who first took part in the 1980s as a lion dancer. “In the beginning, the parade took about 30 minutes to go by. Now, if you look at last year, it took more than two hours.

“And we are not just celebrating with the traditional Chinese community, and not just with other Asian-Canadian communities. We have so much more multicultural and mainstream involvement.”
The highlight of this year’s parade, Ing said, will be the participation of the Immigration Services Society, whose team will include some of the most recent refugees from Syria.

Ing added organizers went out of their way to present a broad vision of Vancouver, including the environmental presence of the David Suzuki Foundation and gender equality groups such as Girls Fly Too, which promotes women’s involvement in the aviation and aerospace sector.

Ing noted that the procession is now so large that the available staging area is at capacity, and the length of time it takes for the parade to run is a little longer than his liking.

That is why organizers have become more selective in choosing the teams that participate, adding that groups who missed out this year can always join next year.

“To tell you the truth, we are maxing out on what we can do, because of the geographic location of Chinatown, with all the new condos that have been built, our staging area is very limited,” Ing said. “If we cannot get any more space, and we cannot bring in more people … sometimes, you just have to say, ‘Sorry, let’s try next time.’”

The parade will start at 11 a.m. and proceed 1.3 kilometres from the Millennium Gate on Pender Street (near Taylor Street) eastbound to Gore Street, then south to Keefer, and continue westbound on Keefer to Abbott Street.

Several other events will be held that weekend. The Spring Festival Cultural Fair will take place in the afternoon on both Feb. 13 and 14 at the Sun Yat-sen Plaza at 50 E. Pender Street, and the Classical Chinese Garden will present its temple fair on Feb. 14. The Cultural Fair is free, while the temple fair is admission-by-donation, with a suggested amount of $5.

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