Story and Photos By Malak Habbak
Arcadia’s second Lunar New Year Festival Sunday drew approximately 17,500 attendees, a 25 percent increase from last year despite increased security requirements.
Like most highly populous Asian cities in Los Angeles, Arcadia, where almost half the population is Asian, is relatively new to hosting such festivals compared to Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel celebrating their 26th, fifth, fourth and third lunar festivals this year, respectively.
The festival’s organizer, EDI Media Inc., combined eastern culture’s traditional elements – drums, lucky bamboo and a lion dance – with western culture’s carnival of games, contemporary music, greasy and savory foods, bounce houses, palm readings and animal shows.
Jane Zhou, a 26-year-old international student, remembers her hometown in Canton Province where she and her mother, in anticipation of the New Year, would go to flower markets teeming with plants and tangerines, symbols of good luck.
In Mainland China, apart from the flower market, Zhou mostly stayed home for the New Year. Yet she said in America, the New Year brings the Chinese community together.
“Lunar festivals are more fun in America,” said Zhou, entranced by the event’s carnival-like quality and “diversity.” Here, vendors sold trinkets, stinky tofu and round-trip airline tickets.
Over 100 local and global vendors along four rows of E-Z UPs were in attendance from McDonalds and Toyota to Alex Goh’s Dragon Whiskers Candy and Kreepy Kreatures Reptile Show, Zhou’s favorite attraction.
“A lot of people are happy with the big sales,” said Senior Vice President of EDI Media Jack Zhao, who went around the booths to chat with vendors. “Sales are better, attendance is better, people are happier.”
Even the weather turned a favorable eye to Zhao. The rain did not fall from the sky until midnight, as if waiting for him to wrap the whole thing up.
EDI Media, based in Los Angeles County, has served the community from Monterey Park to Chino Hills for over 17 years. The media company operates a weekly, two broadcasting stations and the Chinese American Film Festival. Working year-round, EDI Media holds lunar festivals in January, activities for children including a baby magazine contest in June, full moon festivals in September and the film festival in November.
With a mission of cultural exchange, Zhao believes “the combination of east and west cultures is the best.”
La Verne resident Julia Zhu said she was happy to stumble upon the festival, which allowed her daughter Victoria, age 11, to experience Chinese traditions. Together they ate Chinese fried noodles with curry and enjoyed the traditional lion dance.
Performers dressed in red lion costumes were accompanied by beating drums in a dance imitating a lion’s movements and demonstrating martial arts agility. Red envelopes adorned with letters and messages of prosperity were “fed” to the Chinese Lion’s mouth for good luck. Red, the color of joy and celebration, is often association with life itself.
Hacienda Heights resident Ching-Pyng Shiang, stationed at a booth for the Lien Guo Temple, handed out red scrolls emblazoned with golden calligraphy that read, “Buddha’s light radiates everywhere,” to celebrate the coming year of the rooster on Jan. 28.