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Annual San Francisco Chinese New Year parade celebrates Year of the Dog

Photo by Lokemele Davis

Thousands of spectators gathered in San Francisco last Saturday to ring in the Year of the Dog with the annual Chinese New Year parade.

As night approached, the streets along the parade route slowly began to fill with people eager to see what new marvels would be showcased in the illuminated celebration.

The parade was not marred by the controversy of recent weeks regarding the spiritual group Falun Gong. Many officers from the San Francisco Police Department were positioned strategically along the parade's charted course to ensure that the parade ran smoothly.

Officer Fabiani, one of the police on duty, said he wasn't worried about rumors that Falun Gong would revert to violence in order to protest being banned from the parade because of political pamphlets they had distributed to spectators while in the parade a few years ago. According to Fabiani the group "made an agreement with the department; they were very cordial." The parade was "very festive" and "a very happy event," she said

Spectators vying for a good spot huddled together from the cold that tightened its grip on the streets as the sun receded.

A group of police officers on motorcycles zoomed up and down the blocked-off streets, signaling the delayed start of the evening's festivities. The officers were followed by various public figures who cruised along the parade route in sleek cars, smiling and waving to the crowd.

The sound and smell of firecrackers then initiated a series of colorful and dramatic performances. The parade showcased a variety of visual treasures including crisply attired bands from various schools and organizations, glittering dragons that wove through the crowd, dancing bowls of rice and martial arts demonstrations, masked performers, a cheerleading team who performed daring stunts, stilt walkers and elaborately costumed dancers.

The parade, sponsored by Southwest Airlines, also featured ornate floats promoting various products and organizations.

Many parade participants followed the Year of the Dog theme. Dog hats and costumes littered the crowd and the song "Who Let the Dogs Out?" blared from the stereos of many floats and cars. Live dogs were also chosen as additions to some floats in the parade.

Parade participants rewarded spectators-particularly those who cheered loudly-with stickers, candy, temporary tattoos and even plastic firefighter hats that promoted their given organization, company or political candidate.

The music from different shows collided and mixed in the air to create a fusion of sound that matched the excitement of the parade.

Even so, lulls as long as five minutes plagued the parade particularly at the beginning, during which spectators grew restless as they shuffled their feet and adjusted their positions to make themselves more comfortable. Young spectators threw poppers into the street to pass the time.

The parade celebrated a variety of cultures in addition to the Chinese culture that included the Filipino and Laotian cultures.

Freshwoman Hala'i Topp was one of many Mills students who attended the parade. "My favorite part was the Oni demons because they were like these tall nine feet, eight feet, demons with swinging arms and they were different from all the other venues in the parade," she said.