Chinatown parade warms up New Year

As children threw gunpowder-filled snaps to the ground and a 100-foot golden dragon marched down Wentworth Avenue yesterday afternoon, Chicago's Chinatown rang in the Lunar New Year "The Year of the Rat 4706."

Despite a wind chill of 30 below zero, throngs of onlookers crowded the sidewalks to cheer on floats, Miss Chinatown, Miss Friendship Ambassador, drummers, and dancers carrying the dragon and wearing tiger costumes.

The annual celebration draws crowd averaging 20,000 people per year, said Tim Brenmark, a promoter of the event from chicagochinatown.com. Brenmark said the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association sponsors the parade, and the Chinatown Special Events Committee is the coordinator.

"Even when it's cold, there are still many thousands that come out," Brenmark said.

Parade goers wished each other "Gung Hay Fat Choy, Sun Nien Fai Lok," which Brenmark said means, "Wishing you prosperity and a Happy New Year."

"We want to wish everyone the best of luck and economic prosperity," said Larry Wong, executive director of the Chinese American Community Center.

As one of the most important Chinese celebrations, marchers feature the color red as an ancient symbol of liveliness, happiness, passion, and good fortune, Wong said. After the parade, the tiger dancers went into the local shops on Wentworth Avenue to spread good wishes.

"The business owners really appreciate it," Wong said of the visits.

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