Calgarians will celebrate the Lunar New Year on Saturday, with the city’s first Bright Lights Winterfest Lunar New Year fireworks event to welcome the Year of the Dragon.
Ken Gossen, chief operating officer of GlobalFest, one of the event’s organizers, said the weekend will be a multicultural celebration.
“I’ve been shooting off fireworks at the Westgate Community Association for Winterfest for probably 15 years, and this year, since it falls on the Lunar New Year, I suggested we do a joint celebration of the event,” he said.
The event will be held at the Westgate Community Association Hall from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., with a variety of indoor and outdoor presentations, including a lantern festival.
“There will be Chinese lanterns hanging over the skating rink and throughout the hall,” Gossen said.
The weekend will also bring a second round of New Year’s festivities at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre. On Saturday, the dragon and lion dance will be performed on the street near the center at 1 pm, and then other areas of Chinatown will be visited. The festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
David Curtis Wright, a professor of Chinese history at the University of Calgary, said the Lantern Festival is traditionally celebrated 15 days after the new year.
This year’s event will be on a much smaller scale, but he hopes it will generate enough interest for a larger winter event in Calgary in future years.
“We want people to come and see the dragon dances and experience the food, and to be reminded that there is more to the current difficult relationship between Asia and Canada; If our two governments cannot get along, we the people still can.”
Attendees will leave the Westgate Community Association Hall at 6:30 p.m. to enjoy firecrackers and a Chinese lion dance, followed by fireworks at 7 p.m.
“Lunar New Year is usually an almost two-week celebration, but we’re just kicking things off for the community and they’ll take it from there,” Wright said.
Jing Wu, vice-president of the Northwest China Community Association in Alberta, echoed Wright’s sentiment that there is hope for expanding next year’s festivities.
“We got many more ideas for next year; “We are going to have a special lantern festival and we would like to make it big in Calgary for years to come.”
Pat Guillemaud, president of the Westgate Community Association, said that after 15 years of Winterfest, this is the first collaboration with the Chinese community.
“We thought it was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to come together to celebrate the Lunar New Year and have fun at Winterfest.”