Posted on 06 February 2009.
When we heard that that the Chinatown-International District Business
Improvement Area (CIDBIA) wanted to bring its annual Lunar New Year
Celebration outside instead of housing it in King Street Station, our first
thought was: Hope it doesn’t rain that day.
Our second thought was, what a cool idea. CIDBIA reasoned that if the
celebration was actually brought into Chinatown near Hing Hay Park (instead
of staying on the outskirts of the ID where Union Station is), not only
would the event feel more authentic, but it would also bring a lot of
business to the district.
On Saturday, Jan. 31, there was some apprehension on our parts. Since this
was the first year businesses were participating in the event, we didn’t
have a sense of how many people will actually come into the lobby of our
news building to grab some lucky candy, write down a wish, or do an art
The worrying was for nothing. The day was clear and sunny, if a little
chilly. Thousands of people came by, jamming themselves into Chinatown. Even
CIDBIA Executive Director Maribeth Ellis was shocked. “It was one of those
moments when you look at the crowd and you go, ‘Wow,’” she said.
We were surprised because as a newspaper, we didn’t have merchandise to sell
like the shops and restaurants do (plus, our paper is free), but people
still came by, ecstatic and hungry to absorb Asian culture.
Hing Hay Park was crowded and the street was closed down with people viewing
martial arts performances, drummers, and eventually — lion and dragon
dances, which made kids go nuts. There was a tent set up in the middle of
the park, which the kids loved. They were able to bang on gongs, make
crafts, and draw on the ground with chalk.
CIDBIA made a calculated move when the staff decided not to bring in outside
vendors. Rather than buying food from a chain or a restaurant outside the
ID, event attendees ate at local restaurants. The restaurants, bubble tea
cafes, and groceries were packed with new faces. Some places had hour-long
waits. Bakeries reported a 300 percent increase in business that day.
Our staff at NWAW continually ran back and forth between our news building
and Uwajimaya to refill our ever-shrinking stack of newspapers there. We
We met people who traveled from Port Angeles, Tumwater, and beyond. Some of
them were Asian American, and many were not. The Asian Americans we spoke to
from outside of Seattle said that they missed having elements of their
culture in their own neighborhood, and that was why they made the trek down
to Seattle. The most wonderful part was that they brought their non-Asian
The celebration’s festivities were a great way to positively introduce
non-Asians to Asian culture. We hope that it was the start of a new boon for
Of course, massive kudos needs to be extended to CIDBIA. The event was a
hands-down success that far exceeded expectations. The CIDBIA staff was very
calculating in their promotion. The poster was specifically designed to
appeal to children. This was also the first year that they advertised in
community newspapers outside of Seattle in order to target families. They
took the lessons they learned from past events and applied it to this year.
For that, they deserve our admiration. ■