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Redwood City’s Lunar New Year Festival celebrates diversity

Two+performers+in+a+lion+costume+dance+to+the+beat+of+drums.
Two performers in a lion costume dance to the beat of drums.

Two performers in a lion costume dance to the beat of drums.

Anna Feng

Anna Feng

Two performers in a lion costume dance to the beat of drums.

Anna Feng, Staff Writer

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For a day, the Redwood City Courthouse Square was transformed into a bustling area filled with street stalls and colorful red lanterns as people came together to celebrate Redwood City’s eighth annual Lunar New Year Festival on Feb. 24.

The Lunar New Year marks the turn of the lunar calendar, according to Britannica. It is most often celebrated in Asian countries such as China, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The first Redwood City Lunar New Year Festival was held in 2011, according to the Redwood Shores Community Association. Since then, the festival has grown tremendously.

Festival-goer Lynne Olesen has attended the Lunar New Year Festival for three years and already sees the differences between this year’s festival and the festivals before it.

“I remember the first few years, the festival was just along a couple of streets,” Olesen said. “Now, I can see the festival all the way through, and a lot of the restaurants and street stalls are getting more people.”

The festival featured performances by martial art groups from the Shaolin Culture Center and the California Kung Fu and Tai Chi Institute. Redwood City also invited a group of Chinese musicians from the Singtao Chinese Radio to perform and finished the festival with lion dancers from the Far East Lion Dance Association.

However, for many of the attendees, the real attraction in the festival was its diversity.

“My favorite part is the people-watching — I like seeing all of the different people that are here,” Olesen said. “The diversity of Redwood City really shows up at this event.”

A martial artist from the Shaolin Culture Center performs.

Meanwhile, others saw the event as something that should be commonplace.

Florence Hongo, who ran the stall for the Asian American Curriculum Project (AACP), said, “It’s just another celebration of our culture. We’re just bringing that celebration to others so they can learn and enjoy it.”

The street stalls such as the one Hongo worked at helped to supplement the performances in the main area of the square.

Hongo’s assistant at the booth, Sophie Wong, said, “[The city] provides the visuals and the performances, and we help provide the information. If the general public wants to learn more about the Lunar New Year, they can come to our booth and find out more.”

Students who take Mandarin at Carlmont were offered extra credit for volunteering at the festival.

Sophomore Abby Brendza, who volunteered at the event, said, “Volunteering was fun but also a lot of work. The station I worked at, calligraphy, was always very busy, and the children would not listen to me whenever I gave them any direction. It was very chaotic.”

The Lunar New Year Festival concluded with a lion dance as crowds of people gathered to watch.

“I think it’s really important to know about different cultures, especially in these last two years since we’ve been so divided,” Olesen said. “Things like this really help show us the things that we have in common with each other.”

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
Redwood City’s Lunar New Year Festival celebrates diversity