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Vancouver’s Chinatown gears up for first Lunar New Year parade in years

Click to play video: 'Chinatown prepares for first Lunar New Year parade since 2020'
Chinatown prepares for first Lunar New Year parade since 2020
After a two-year pandemic pause, a signature event in Vancouver's Chinatown will return to the streets on January 22. The 48th annual Spring Festival Parade is expected to draw thousands to the historic but struggling neighbourhood. Kristen Robinson reports – Jan 15, 2023

After a two-year pandemic pause, the 48th annual Spring Festival Parade will return to Vancouver’s Chinatown on Sun. Jan. 22, and organizers expect the “signature event” will attract more than 100,000 visitors to streets which have been largely empty since early 2020.

S.U.C.C.E.S.S., which is co-organizing the festivities with the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver, the Vancouver Chinatown Merchants Association, the Chinese Freemasons Vancouver Branch and the Shon Yee Benevolent Association of Canada, said more than 60 teams were registered to participate as of Sunday.

“After hundreds of Zoom meetings and Chinatown, this neighbourhood, really hard hit by the pandemic, I think it means a lot for the residents and businesses here to see the crowds come back,” S.U.C.C.E.S.S. board chair Terry Yung told Global News in an interview Sunday.

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Members of the Vancouver Academy of Dance, which has been a mainstay of the event since its inception in 1974, are perfecting their performances ahead of the first in-person Lunar New Year parade since 2020.

Click to play video: 'Iconic Ho Ho restaurant expected to reopen soon in Vancouver’s Chinatown'
Iconic Ho Ho restaurant expected to reopen soon in Vancouver’s Chinatown

“We’ve had two years off and now were back returning in full force,” artistic director Anabel Ho told Global News.

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Ho’s troupe of young dancers is among the 2,500 participants — including close to 20 lion dance teams — who will snake their way along the 1.3-kilometre route through the community from the Millennium Gate on Pender Street to the intersection of Keefer and Abbott streets.

“In 2020, it was quite sad when we only had one competition,” said Caleigh Quan of Vancouver Academy of Dance.

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“We took so much time to set everything up, but unfortunately we weren’t able to do anything so now that were able to fully come back, it’s so much fun.”

The 47th annual parade in 2020 almost didn’t happen as COVID-19 concerns led to last minute cancellations and a lower turnout, before the pandemic brought an increase in anti-Asian hate, street disorder, vandalism and graffiti.

Gym owner Ryan Diaz, who recently posted a video to Instagram promoting Chinatown, said he’s pumped to see the return of an event which brought thousands of spectators to the area.

“I’m excited just the fact that we can do that again and build the community again and remind people like, ‘Hey Chinatown is this magical, wonderful place.’”

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Vancouver mayor Ken Sim campaigned on a promise to revive the neighbourhood, and said the parade’s comeback is a good first step.

“It’s bigger than just the Chinese community. People from all walks of life and different cultures and communities, they come down and enjoy it as well, and it’s just another piece that will help us revitalize Chinatown,” Sim told Global News in an interview.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver councillor calls for urgent action in Chinatown'
Vancouver councillor calls for urgent action in Chinatown

“A lot of people haven’t been there during the pandemic and we need people back, we want people back.”

On Tuesday, Vancouver city council will vote on an action plan that would see more than $2.1 million spent to improve the area – including $1.34 million on cleaning and sanitation in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside – and $110,000 to set up a satellite city office in Chinatown.

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After nearly three years of COVID-19 setbacks, Year of the Rabbit is predicted to be one of hope.

“For us to be able to share and celebrate our culture and tradition, we are so thrilled,” Ho said.

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