By Alex Robinson
This year’s Lunar New Year parade is set to be the largest and most multicultural yet, organizers said.
Since its inception in 1996, the parade has served as an exclamation point for the two-week celebration, which begins Jan. 31, and is the main holiday for many Asians.
The parade has grown from 800 marchers in its first year to 8,000 last year. Organizers said more than 100,000 people came to see the parade last year and expect just as many, if not more, this year.
“The last three years the parade has unbelievably grown bigger and bigger,” said Peter Tu, executive director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, which organizes the parade every year.
Organizers said next year they hope the city will give them a longer marching route as the parade has outgrown the current one. By the time the first group of marchers has reached the finish at Queens Crossing, the last group usually has not started yet, organizers said.
The start of the Feb. 8 parade will be outside the 109th Precinct, at 37-05 Union St., and kick off at 11 a.m. before passing along Union and Main streets and snaking through downtown Flushing.
Organizers said they have worked hard this year to reach out to non-Asian parts of the community to take part in the celebration.
“It must become a community event and not focus on only Asians,” Tu said at a recent planning meeting.
Several different cultural and ethnic groups that call Flushing home have signed up to take part in the parade.
John Choe, director of One Flushing, said his community-based economic development center has been working on reaching out to various parts of the community using social media.
“Oftentimes Lunar New Year is seen as purely a Chinese or Korean event and we’ve made a big effort this year to change people’s perceptions. Asian Americans have been here as long as other immigrant groups,” Choe said. “This is a celebration that is an American celebration. Please come out. This is a community event and we should all celebrate this together.”
Those wishing to march in the parade will need to put together a group of at least 20 people and sign up through Tu’s office, at 40-48 Main St., Suite 302, by Tuesday.
Choe encouraged parade-goers to leave their cars at home and use public transportation, as available parking will be sparse the day of the parade, one of the busiest shopping days of the year for Flushing businesses.
After years in which service disruptions on the No. 7 train have marred the Lunar New Year parade weekend, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it would honor a commitment not to disrupt service this year for repairs.
“We thank the MTA for postponing scheduled repairs to the No. 7 train to accommodate Lunar New Year celebrations. This arrangement was the result of a long negotiation with the MTA that started two years ago,” said City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing). “Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays for our community and by postponing the scheduled repairs until Feb. 28, the MTA has ensured that the public will have access to these important celebrations.”
There will be performances and fireworks at Queens Crossing, where the parade ends at 1 p.m.
After the parade, the Queens Botanical Garden will be hosting a variety of events, including a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, crafts for children and two sets by the New York Chinese Chorus accompanied by traditional Chinese instruments at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.