By Samantha Pak
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
While planning last year’s Lunar New Year Celebration, Maribeth Ellis and Julia Nelson of the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) expected approximately 4,000 people to attend the celebration throughout the day.
The actual turnout surpassed these expectations by roughly double.
This year, they’re preparing for even more people to attend the event, which is on Saturday, Feb. 13, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Hing Hay Park.
“I think it’ll be bigger because everybody from last year will be back and additional people will come,” said Nelson, program coordinator for the CIDBIA. She has played a major role in planning the celebrations.
CIDBIA staff members have organized the annual Lunar New Year celebration for about a dozen years, but last year’s event was especially successful.
“I would say [the celebration] really came into its own,” said Ellis, executive director for the CIDBIA.
Both Ellis and Nelson said last year’s success could be attributed to moving the event to Hing Hay Park and the local businesses’ involvement.
The celebration had previously been held in the nearby Union Station. Ellis and Nelson were having a hard time trying to create an authentic atmosphere through decorations and bringing in vendors. Holding the event in the park eliminated this challenge because everything they needed was already in the district.
In planning the event, Ellis said they have tried to stay true to tradition and hold a celebration that would be similar to what you’d see in China, where Lunar New Year is like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Western New Year combined into one celebration.
With booths set up in the park for arts and crafts, musical instruments, toys, and other fun activities, the celebration is expected to be a big one. Other activities include a scavenger hunt, a children’s costume parade, and live stage performances throughout the day, including two lion dance performances scheduled for 12.pm. and 2 p.m.
The fact that it’s the Year of the Tiger has also allowed them to be more creative in their planning, Nelson said.
There will be a tiger fun jump for children and a person walking around the park in a tiger costume.
She said they have also been working to get local businesses involved, whether it’s through participating in the scavenger hunt or offering special deals during the day of the event. The goal of the celebration is to welcome people into the district and encourage them to return.
With so much happening, an event this size cannot be planned overnight. Initial conversations began in September and the planning started in October. Ellis credits Nelson and CIDBIA Marketing Assistant Youlee Wang for the successful preparation.
Wang insists that organizing the celebration has been a group effort. “We all work together,” she said.
And through all the planning, the three women have worked to make the celebration more about family and culture than commercialization and bringing in vendor booths. As a result, the CIDBIA relies heavily on sponsors to fund the event.
“These sponsors really make it possible for us to not have to sell booth space,” Ellis said.
The majority of the sponsors are businesses in the International District, which the three women support because it keeps everything in the community.
The celebration’s title sponsor, for the second year in a row, is Snoqualmie Casino. Michael Barozzi, chief executive officer for Snoqualmie Entertainment Authority, which operates the casino, said it is an honor for them to participate in the celebration because they have received great support from the Asian and Asian American communities since the casino opened in November 2008.
“Sponsoring CIDBIA events such as Lunar New Year and the Summer Festival helps maintain the economic vitality of one of the most culturally important and historically significant districts in the city,” Barozzi said.
He said with all the activities planned for the event, he and his staff are looking forward to being a part of the festivities.
Ellis, Nelson, and Wang are also excited about the upcoming celebration. They are anxious to see the crowds during the celebration. They hope to hear people’s responses and their questions about the neighborhood. They are also hoping that Mother Nature treats them well.
“I just think it’s going to be lots of fun,” Nelson said. “As long as the weather cooperates.” (end)
For more information, visit CIDBIA.org.
Samantha Pak can be reached at email@example.com.