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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane will ring in Chinese New Year

Mingni Sun fixes her sister Janni's hair during a recent Chinese New Year celebration in Spokane. 
 (File/ / The Spokesman-Review)
Mingni Sun fixes her sister Janni's hair during a recent Chinese New Year celebration in Spokane. (File/ / The Spokesman-Review)

Chinese New Year in Spokane? OK, so it’s not as big as, say, San Francisco’s celebration, but to the local Chinese community and the growing number of families that have adopted children from China, it’s an important and exciting tradition.

“Before we had the New Year celebration, the Chinese people (in Spokane) all were hiding somewhere,” said Bo Wen. “This celebration brought the Chinese people together.”

Wen has joined the Spokane Chinese Association in celebrating the Chinese New Year locally since 2002. The group is celebrating early this year with a day full of activities on Saturday, including a Chinese Cultural Fair that’s free and open to the public followed by a tickets-required performance and dinner. The association teams with Spokane Community College’s Asian/Pacific Club and the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Gonzaga University to put on the event.

Last year, more than 500 people attended the Chinese Cultural Fair, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Spokane Community College’s Lair Auditorium. Many of those who attend are families that have adopted children from China and want to provide an opportunity for their children to experience their native culture, Wen said. He added that many Americans also are interested in Chinese culture.

The cultural fair provides visitors the chance to explore Chinese traditions and try calligraphy, paper cutting, making spring flowers and translating their names from English to Chinese. Guests can try Asian cuisine and buy Chinese arts and crafts. Special children’s activities and games are planned, including a tai chi demonstration at 1 p.m.

It’s the kids who Wen said bring energy and excitement to the day-long celebration. “I like to see kids on the stage,” he said. Recalling the fashion show last year where children modeled traditional Chinese costumes, Wen said, “It was so cool.”

And his two daughters, ages 4 and 1, love to watch the dancing. “They like the culture,” he said. “They ask me, ‘When is it coming?’ They want to celebrate.”

The event, he said, has been getting better every year. Jack Liu, this year’s event coordinator, agreed. Even though Chinese New Year falls on Jan. 29, Liu said the group is celebrating early because of scheduling issues.

In addition to the cultural fair, special tickets-only performances start at 3 p.m. The show will feature colorful Chinese dancing, music, singing and fashion, as well as magician Nick Norton who often headlines at Silverwood Theme Park. A Chinese New Year banquet at Top of China, 21 E. Lincoln Road, follows the performance. The show and dinner cost $23 for adults or $10 for the show only. Show and dinner tickets for children ages 4 to 10 cost $10, or $5 for the show only. Tickets are available at Chinese Acupuncture, 1856 W. Broadway Ave. or by calling 325-3588.

Chinese New Year, sometimes called a spring festival, is a big deal in Chinese culture, Liu said. When he first came here in 1970 to teach at Eastern Washington University, Liu said Chinese New Year celebrations in the area were nonexistent, adding that he would borrow films from the Chinese consulate and invite local Chinese to watch them.

The celebration is important to “facilitate harmony” in the Chinese community, he said. “We get so busy with our own stuff we hardly have any time to meet each other.” And that’s why, now retired, he said his favorite part of the celebration is the banquet, where people can sit down and chat. “I like to be able to talk and relate to them.”

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