Serving as the Grand Marshall of Chicago’s Chinese New Year Parade this year was not only a great honor, it was great fun. The millions of you who weren’t there to join more than 30,000 of us on and along both sides of Wentworth Avenue missed out on a festive celebration of the Year of the Snake.
My friends with the Chicago Chinatown Special Events Committee have selected me before for leading this annual party. But this year was especially memorable because the weather was stellar and I got more of a chance to visit with my Chinatown friends. I also got to meet quite a few WGN viewers including John K. who greeted me as “Big Tiny”. Love that!
Of course, our Chinese New Year Parade always has a Chicago flair. I enjoy watching the kids, teachers and parents marching by from the various schools in Chinatown and Bridgeport. There are always politicians and marching bands. But there’s something truly special about hearing beautiful bagpipe music from Chicago’s famous Shannon Rovers celebrating the Year of the Snake, too.
The biggest treat this year was a gift from China. The new Consul General, Zhao Weiping, arranged for a special performance from the Tong Liang Dragon Dance team from Sichuan Province. The choreography and stunting within their performance was stunning and beautiful to watch. Seeing the appreciation on the faces of the spectators along Wentworth was just as nice to see.
I always tell Chicago friends that if they haven’t been to Chinatown lately, they haven’t been to Chinatown. The community is marking its 101st year. A lot has changed there in the past decade alone. There are all kinds of new shops and restaurants, some of which have attracted top chefs from China. Yes, some areas are in desperate need of updating. But it is still unmatched for bringing Chicagoans a genuine taste of Asia right here in the Midwest. Perhaps I’ll see you there soon. And feel free to call me “Big Tiny”. Gung Hei Fat Choi!