By Joe Anuta
The ghosts of ancient Chinese history marched arm-in-arm with Mr. Met during Saturday’s massive Lunar New Year Parade in downtown Flushing, exemplifying a neighborhood that keeps a tight hold on tradition while welcoming the rest of the borough with open arms.
In the heart of downtown, where Main Street intersects Roosevelt Avenue and Kissena Boulevard, NYPD officers had to push back a bulging crowd who came out for the unseasonable, and some would say propitious, February day.
“I hope the New Year is like the weather,” said City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), referring to the sunny skies and nearly 50-degree air.
The parade route along Union and Main streets drew onlookers of all ages, like children clutching balloons or a man in a cook’s uniform who emerged from a restaurant to smoke a cigarette and catch some of the floats.
A float from the Taiwan Center featured three San Tai Zi gods, larger-than-life men in armor who symbolize good fortune in Taiwanese folklore.
Others housed candy-throwing well-wishers, dancers in traditional Chinese dresses or women yelling “Happy New Year!” into microphones.
At times there was a lull between the floats, and confetti blew across an uncharacteristically empty Main Street as if a circus-themed apocalypse had taken place.
Then suddenly a group banging drums and cymbals would round the corner, beating life back into the parade.
The Korean Traditional Music and Dance Institute performed Poongmul Nori, a musical performance involving drums, to bring good luck for the New Year.
Many of the young dancers and drummers were born in America, but according to their teacher Hosun Kang, needed to learn the importance of Korean culture as well — a dual history that exists for many immigrants in Queens.
Nelson Chan was dressed as the Chinese god of fortune. Sporting an elegantly long, but fake black mustache and a billowing red robe, he held up scrolls bearing lucky phrases for the Year of the Dragon, the most auspicious animal of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, according to many in the community.
About 65 groups participated in the event, and many like Francis Lewis High School exemplified the parade organizers’ efforts to include organizations outside of the Asian community.
Naturally, Mr. Met was there as well, waving to the excited masses from the sunroof of a car.
But the most eye-catching feature of the procession — at least according to a survey of youngsters — was the dancing lions and dragons.
The longest lions and dragons were made up of nearly 10 people, but the smallest was only a couple of feet tall, an oversized head propelled by two little legs sticking out of the bottom.
Inside was 4-year-old Adrian Chan, who walked the entire parade route while his father Chuck stabilized the top-heavy getup.
At the culmination of the parade, after speeches from lawmakers from Queens and around the city, a deafening roar of firecrackers reverberated between the buildings around Queens Crossing, at 136-17 39th Ave., where more dancing and festivities occurred after the parade.
The day of festivities was the result of months of planning by the Lunar New Year Festival Committee. They met every Tuesday, when Peter Tu, chairman of the committee, would instruct groups on their position in the parade or scrub potential float designs of any overtly political messages.
“Hopefully, next year will be twice as big,” he said after the parade. “This is becoming a community event.”
Flushing Town Hall and Sky View Center also held cultural events for the holiday.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.