PHOTOS: Celebrating Lunar New Year in Chicago’s Asia on Argyle

The parade began at 1 p.m. and continued along North Broadway. (Angela Chen/Medill)

By Angela Chen
Medill Reports

Asia on Argyle welcomed Chicago to the 40th-plus anniversary Lunar New Year Parade this February. Lion dancers filled Sun Wah BBQ, music blasted through the speakers past the Argyle Street station, and people lined up outside local businesses to order bubble tea and Asian pastries. While the city’s larger Chinatown along Cermak Road on the Near South Side continues to flourish and also celebrates the Lunar New Year with a popular parade, cultural traditions from across China and Southeast Asia make Uptown a popular North Side stop for this and other festivities. 

“We love that the Lunar New Year brings people out and maybe gets (them) introduced to these businesses for the first time,” said Greg Carroll, director of events for the  Uptown United Chamber of Commerce. “In the late ’70s early ’80s, a group of Chinese businesses opened on Argyle Street, and then in the ’90s, Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian (immigrants) came. And now it’s become a celebration of many Asian cultures here.”  

The Uptown Chamber of Commerce helped organize the annual Lunar New Year parade, inviting local businesses to become part of the festivities. (Angela Chen/Medill)
Sun Wah BBQ hosts traditional Lion Dance performances, surprising lunch-time guests at the restaurant. (Angela Chen/Medill)
General Manager Kelly Cheng of Sun Wah BBQ has helped organize the Lunar New Year Parade in Uptown for the past 25 years. “This is where our restaurant is and where our business is,” Cheng said. “Our family has roots here now. New Year’s is a big deal for our family. It’s very much about family unity and community.” (Angela Chen/Medill)
“Even if we don’t do anything else throughout the year, New Year’s is the one time where we go all out,” Cheng said. “We make it so that everyone in the community is having a good time so it’s not just about ourselves.” (Angela Chen/Medill)
Mayor Lori Lightfoot stopped by the Lunar New Year Parade. “It’s a magnet for people all over the city to come and experience incredible diversity in this community,” Lightfoot said. (Angela Chen/Medill)
The parade began at 1 p.m. and continued along North Broadway. (Angela Chen/Medill)
The roads were closed off from noon to 4 p.m., allowing people to freely roam and watch the parade. (Angela Chen/Medill)
The parade is an opportunity for local businesses to reach out to the community. Families and organizations attend not only to support Uptown and the Asian community surrounding Argyle Street but also to promote other causes as well. (Angela Chen/Medill)
People gather on North Broadway to see the Lion Dance performers. (Angela Chen/Medill)
Asia on Argyle features Chinese, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Laotian and Thai cuisine.
(Angela Chen/Medill)
“Tigers are quite tenacious – it’s like you give a dog a bone and you don’t let go until it’s done. I see it in my family members and my nieces. I’m not giving up until it’s done,” Cheng said, referring to her family’s mentality and how their zodiac sign also reflects in their personalities. (Angela Chen/Medill)
A long line of customers wait outside in the brisk cold for fresh pastries at Chiu Quon Bakery, a traditional Chinese bakery since 1986. (Angela Chen/Medill)
People dance in the street as a local DJ plays music. (Angela Chen/Medill)
“Gong Hay Fat Choy,” Cheng said. The phrase means “Happy New Year,” in Cantonese. (Angela Chen/Medill)


Angela Chen is in the Video/Broadcast specialization at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter @AngelaLiuChen.