Despite the Chinese New Year occuring Feb. 16, Chicagoans had no problem waiting a week to witness the annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. Dozens of marching bands, dance troupes and local businesses filed down Wentworth Avenue to usher in the Year of the Dog.
The dog is a Chinese symbol of loyalty, responsibility, sensitivity and liveliness and represents those born in 1922, and every twelfth year since. Unfortunately, the 2018 fortune foretells a year of challenges and financial hardships, but that didn’t deter people from celebrating.
Festivities began at the intersection of Wentworth Avenue and Cermak Road, better known as the Chinatown Gate where approximately 30,000 onlookers waited in anticipation for the two firecracker strings hanging from the gate’s arch to burn out. Meanwhile, colorful dragons roved about, showing off their graceful dances and exquisite craftsmanship as drummers pounded their instruments behind them. The crowd erupted with cheer as the final firecracker went off, signaling the commencement of the parade.
The celebration was instant. Young women dressed in traditional Chinese clothing walked along the overflowing sidewalk. Red lanterns hung along trees, transforming Wentworth Avenue into a traditional Chinese street. The smell of noodles and seafood wafted from the restaurants lining the street, enticing many to chow down on some lo-mein and dumplings.
Chinatown representatives, including Lakeside Bank executive vice president Stanley Bochnowski and Chinatown chamber of commerce executive officer Jimmy Lee, took the stage and began to present the participating bands, businesses, politicians and clubs as they walked along. Several high school bands marched in the parade, each with its own unique setlist. Saxophones, mellophones, clarinets and baritones blasted their tunes as cymbals and drums kept the rhythm, occasionally halting to break out in dance. Pom-pom shaking cheerleaders and flag twirlers followed, putting on a colorful display.
Girl Scouts and elementary school groups followed suit, handing out candy and wishing spectators a happy new year. Excited mothers pushed their children through the thick crowd so they can see from the rail and get some candy for themselves.
The unexpected appearance of the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band broke the sound of drums with its bagpipe performance. The group marched and played its setlist in traditional green and black kilts. The shrill notes pierced through the celebratory sounds, demonstrating the unique diversity of Chicago and its many neighborhoods.
Several politicians, such as current Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy, charismatically shook hands with hundreds in the crowd, campaigning for various government positions here in Chicago. Even Ronald McDonald made an appearance, shouting hello to the crowd with his signature smile.
The 2018 Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade was undoubtedly a success, all thanks to those who participated and the thousands who showed up to watch — a fantastic start to the Year of the Dog.