Houston New Year festival gets a boost

Updated: 2015-01-29 05:50

By MAY ZHOU in Houston(China Daily)

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Houston New Year festival gets a boost

Houston Mayor Annise Parker (right) is joined by Southern News Group CEO Wea Lee in front of the Texas Lunar New Year Festival poster at the kick-off party on Tuesday night. KEVIN HSIEH FOR CHINA DAILY 

Houston is doing Lunar New Year big this time around, Texas big.

More than 200 people from Houston's Asian, African, Latino and other communities, along with Mayor Annise Parker, council member Richard Nguyen and Chinese Consul General Li Qiangmin, crowded into the front yard of the residence of Wea Lee, CEO of Southern News Group, on Tuesday night. The occasion was a kick-off party for the 19th Texas Lunar Festival.

For the past 18 years, Houston's Southern News Group has organized the annual Texas Lunar Festival in Chinatown to celebrate the holiday observed by Chinese, Vietnamese and other Asian ethnicities.

This year, the festival will be pushed to a new high. The one-day event will be held downtown at Discovery Green on Feb 21, and Mayor Parker not only assumes the role of honorary chairperson, she has also pledged personal funds to support the event. Congressman Al Green, honorary chair of the festival, said he would also make a personal contribution.

Greeting the guests with a "Happy New Year" in both Chinese and Vietnamese, Parker said, "Houston has a large pan-Asian population, we have many communities celebrating the Lunar New Year across the city. It's time we come together as a community and invite the entire city to join the celebration. It really makes a statement about what we can get done in Houston."

Parker added that "tonight I came here as mayor but also as an underwriter as well. It's important enough for me to commit some of my funds to make sure this event takes place on a grand scale".

Lee said he was pleasantly surprised by the mayor's announced contribution. "This marks a new chapter in the history of Houston because under Mayor Parker's leadership, Houston's communities have truly come together," Lee said. "Most of us come from all corners of the world, made America our home, and here we celebrate our own cultures. This is what America is all about: diversity. This is what makes America a great country."

According to Lee, more than 100 organizations will participate in the event. "We will make this one of the biggest Lunar New Year celebrations in Houston," he said.

The festival also got a big boost from the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, which has invited a performance group from Henan province to join the festival.

Chinese Consul General Li Qiangmin praised Southern News Group's efforts in making such an event a local tradition. "The Spring Festival is like our Chinese carnival. The invited group will perform a variety of programs such as martial arts, acrobatics, music and dance. This will not only help local compatriots to celebrate the Spring Festival, but also help others get to know our culture," Li said.

Council member Richard Nguyen stressed that "we don't just celebrate our culture, we share our culture", and joked, "we thank you for dressing like us, eating like us, speaking like us, but don't drive like us".

According to Liu Zhiyuan, the festival's program producer, the event will offer games, performances and booths highlighting Chinese food and culture. "Our VIP booth will showcase 1,000 Weifang Kites from Shandong province. Also, Beijing Confucius Foundation will send artists to do Chinese paintings and other performances on site."

Liu said the more than 60 booths will feature traditional items associated with the Chinese Spring Festival celebration, including lanterns and decorative crafts.

The entertainment is being arranged by Oriental Art Education Center's Xu Li and Bao Ling. According to Bao, three 90-minute segments will be presented to showcase different facets of Asian culture.