Alhambra’s Lunar New Year Festival returns, uplifting spirits

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Anne To/UT

The Asian Arts Talent Foundations performing a Tibetan drum dance during the festival.

Anne To, Community News Reporter

The festival that has been held since 1997 was back this month after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic.

It was downsized from five blocks to one block and happened at the city’s weekly farmer’s market instead of its previous location on Valley Boulevard.

Still, the Lunar New Year event brought back with it a feeling of community and normalcy for residents as they gathered to celebrate the Year of the Tiger and Asian American Pacific Islander culture.

Families attending made lanterns tried their hand at calligraphy and painting and played small carnival games like shooting hoops, knocking down stacked blocks, and throwing bean bags at wooden figures. Prize winners got fortune cookies and a toy plane in the shape of a dragon. 

Performers led children’s book readers and the Asian American Talent Foundation did traditional Asian dances, like lion dances and Tibetan drum dances.

“In light of #StopAsianHate and the COVID situation, where we were all isolated, I think this is something our community needs. A lot of people wanted to be a part of it just to be able to connect and support each other,” said Olivia Chong, from Asians With Attitudes, an activism group.

This year’s Lunar New Year festival happened at Alhambra’s weekly farmer’s market, which sells assorted fruits, flowers, and other handmade trinkets.

“The farmer’s market never closed throughout the pandemic, so we were able to learn so much from a program that has been running through the pandemic successfully while bringing people back to the farmer’s market,” said Alhambra Chamber of Commerce Event Specialist Lilly Naviera.

The festival’s size was reduced this year to create a safer environment, according to organizers.

“We continue to follow Los Angeles county public health guidelines for assembling people…Previous festivals were bigger and longer and spanned five city blocks, but we intentionally made it smaller because of the pandemic,” said Alhambra Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Bwarie.

Though the festival itself was scaled back, some reported that attendance seemed to be higher.

Donna Chen of the AATF spoke about the audience: “Every year before, there were a lot of people in the crowds. I thought this year there would be less, but I was wrong; there are more people than the previous years.”

Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]