Chicago Chinatown parade rings in Year of the Dog

By Xiaozhang (Shaw) Wan
Medill Reports

Chicago’s Chinatown turned into a sea of colors Sunday as revelers gathered for the annual Lunar New Year Parade.

The parade featured a group of dogs to celebrate the Year of the Dog. Marching bands, colorful floats and lion dances attracted about 28,000 people.

“There were many American people [here], that’s what’s special about this parade. It’s celebrating the Year of the Dog.That’s why all these people come down,” said Gene Lee, member of the Chicago Chinatown Community Foundation and the Chicago Chinatown Special Events  organizer.

The parade marks a 106-year-old tradition in Chicago.

About 70 floats, dancing troupes, marching bands from area schools and other parade participants kicked off at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue and headed north up to Cermak Road.

Many schools from across the city joined the celebration as marching groups or marching bands.

“I think it’s important just to celebrate the history and the traditions of all of our cultures, and also just to come together as a community as well on a beautiful day, and to be able to celebrate all of our differences that make us unique and special,” said Elizabeth Nessner, principal of Robert Healy Elementary School of Bridgeport.

Apart from performing at the parade, Robert Healy Elementary School does a lot of celebrating at school.

Starting with the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the school offers a number of assemblies featuring Chinese dances, lions and the dragons. They even had a dragon’s parade.

“We really try to find a way once every day to celebrate. The school has decorated, the students all enjoy dressing up in the red and gold, and of course seeing the presentations and participating as well,” Nessner said.

She also brought her daughter to the parade. The little girl, now seven, has visited or been in the parade ever since she was born.

Like Nessner, many families brought their children to enjoy the merriment and fantasy. Krista Ross of Lakeview brought her daughter Samantha to the parade.

“We think it’s really important to teach our children about different cultures and living in a city that is so rich with cultures. I think it’s important to expose them to it and get them excited about it,” said Ross.

“The driving force here for American people is the parade” and sharing another culture, Lee said.

“Chinatown is like a central destination, not only for American people who want to come down and join us as we celebrate the New Year. Some people come down just to see the fireworks, some people come down just to see the lion teams or the dragon teams that are not there on the weekend,” Lee added.

The Chicago Chinatown Special Events in partnership with the Chicago Chinatown Community Foundation has organized the parade since 1972.

“Obviously, we are both in Chinatown, we are both in the community. And we do it to promote the Chinese culture and traditions,” said Lee.

Based on the lunar calendar, the 2018 Chinese New Year started on Feb. 16.

Celebrations have already been underway across Chicago, with traditional Chinese opera performances and a dumpling making dinner. Events still to come include exhibitions, a lantern festival celebration  and fashion outlets.

Photo at top: Dragon dances featured the Chicago Chinatown parade on Sunday.