By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
This year’s Dragon Fest posed challenges to many Chinatown businesses, even though it could be a record-breaking year in attendance.
Panic struck among businesses when power was out about 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, right before the festival began at 11 a.m. The affected areas included downtown to the International District (ID) to Rainier Avenue South.
Many merchants had prepared food to sell to potential customers for the ID $2 Food Walk program, which had attracted thousands of hungry eaters since the implementation of the program three years ago.
The power outage shut down Uwajimaya and many other businesses. Fire trucks were in the ID as people were stranded in elevators.
Without knowing the cause of the power failure, people blamed the city. Several business owners stood outside their restaurants, feeling lost and frustrated. Without electricity, businesses like Yummy Bakery worried that they might not be able to bake the big cakes on time for their clients’ weddings.
Don Blakeney, executive director of the Chinatown/I.D. Business Improvement Area CIDBIA, immediately called Seattle City Light and the deputy mayors, Hyeok Kim and Kate Joncas. Both assured him that the city was working on it and would be able to fix the problem in a couple of hours.
According to Scott Thomsen, the Public Information Officer for City Light, the power outage was due to a failed “lightning arrester” which affected an underground cable. Arresters are used to protect power systems from damage of lightning. There are many reasons why this damage could happen–warmer temperatures, a previous lightning strike, or even continued use over time. Regardless of the cause, it affected south downtown (east of the ID) and 2,781 customers.
When power was back on about 12:45 p.m., in the afternoon, the temperature was in the 90s and there were few people buying food. Sub-Sand owner Shu Yi Situ, who used to sell over 1,000 egg rolls, said she had barely sold dozens.
Dim Sum King owner Amy Eng said business was slow compared to other festivals held in the ID, where there were lines outside her door for the whole day. A dozen food trucks were competing with ID restaurants for customers.
Harry Chan, owner of Tai Tung Restaurant, said, “It’s good to bring people (to the ID).
However, the design of the Fest seemed to draw folks to go down to the food truck area. People didn’t pay attention to the ID restaurants. So our business is not as good as last year.”
Some businesses such as Sun Ya and Duk Li said said they did well despite not being located by the food truck area. In fact, Duk Li owner said the power was out for only half an hour. As the sun set, people were streaming to the ID ceaselessly for the night market, packing on King Street under the Chinese Gates and flooding into the parking lot of the old Uwajimaya, where there were live performances on stage. The event had probably produced one of the highest attendance for the Fest.
Japanese Maples owner Tracy Oaksmith said this is the worst year for business compared to the past two years her family had leased a booth to sell the trees. She wasn’t complaining, though.
“It’s fine,” she said. “We have to come support [the Fest] and the community. This is the third year and people start getting to know us. Many came to say ‘hi.’ We have to participate, so the Fest can continue. If nobody shows up, we won’t have a festival or parade.”
One more consolation for Oaksmith, it was the dragon. She was excited to chase the dragons from one street to another, and take photos along the way. (end)