Throngs of people filled the streets of Pender Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown as the Spring Festival Parade returned on Sunday for the first time in three years.
There were hundreds of spectators with many small children sitting on their parents’ shoulders so they could watch the lion and dragon dancers, other cultural troupes and marching groups in the 48th parade of its kind.
The joy of the first day of the Lunar New Year was tempered by sadness following a deadly mass shooting in California on Saturday that appeared to target people celebrating the same occasion.
A gunman killed 10 people and injured 10 others at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park on the east end of Los Angeles that is primarily made up of first-generation Asian immigrants from China or Asian-Americans.
Some had not yet heard the news from California, but Grace Chen said she and her family had the victims in mind.
“The tragedy happened at a bad time, during the Lunar New Year,” Chen said as she watched the parade with her husband and son. “We are praying for them.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NDP Federal Leader Jagmeet Singh, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, BC Premier David Eby and Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim were among the politicians at the parade in Vancouver.
Trudeau said his “heart breaks” for the people whose Lunar New Year celebrations were “violently attacked” and whose lives were forever changed by the shooting.
He said that while it was nice to see everyone gather in Vancouver to celebrate for the first time since the pandemic began, the news of the shooting has also caused sadness amid what should be a joyous time.
Vancouver police said they had dispatched additional officers to the event.
The shooting comes as Chinatown communities across North America, including Vancouver, seek support after being hit by both economic hardship and a rise in anti-Asian racism and hate crimes during the pandemic.
The start of the Vancouver parade was slightly delayed as hundreds of spectators packed the route.
“Everyone expected this big turnout this year and it really seems to have happened,” said Michael Tan of the Chau Luen Society, organizing his group amid the sounds of firecrackers and drums.
“We have this giant spreadsheet that organizes all the different people. It’s not just this parade, but we have all these lion dances all week and for weeks to come.”
He was excited to attend his 25th Chinatown parade. With about a hundred members of his society taking part, it was one of the largest displays in the parade in years with enough entrants to present a long dragon and four lions, he said.
“A lot of people have been dating this year. It just makes my heart grow three times bigger,” Tan said.
Parts of the sidewalk were almost a dozen people deep and many people had cellphones at arms length and selfie sticks to capture photos and videos.
Lyndsie Plowman was among them, looking out over the distinctive balconies of the area’s old association buildings, the parade, and the crowd. But she was making quick sketches with a pencil in her little notebook and drawing what she saw.
“Even if you’re in the same place, if you just turn around, a whole new scene appears in front of you,” Plowman said. “I love the amount of people that come out for the parade in Vancouver. It feels like a great community event, which I really, really like.”
Inside the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, a group of friends—Stephanie Johnson, Jocelyn Wong, Sarah Law, and Hannah Arazá—reflected on their day together.
“It has been nice to see so many people from different cultural backgrounds. They were of different ancestry and it’s great to see people interested in our tradition,” Wong said.
With an archive from The Canadian Press
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