According to the Chinese zodiac and horoscope, the new year that begins Thursday, the year of the rabbit,
will usher in good taste and refinement — shining on everything and all people. With traditional Southern
California weather shining on downtown Riverside on Saturday, thousands attended the city’s first Asian
Pacific Lunar New Year Festival.
Commencing with a parade followed by opening remarks by festival organizers and Riverside Mayor
Ron Loveridge, the crowds embraced the cultural and heritage displays as well as the continual stage
presentations. Festival organizer May Davis said, “The festival is a celebration of the culture and heritage
of the region.” One of the primary goals of the event was to celebrate the diversity of the Asians and
Asian-Americans living in the Inland regions.
“Hosting the Lunar Fest in downtown Riverside will add another cultural attraction to our beautiful city,
and we hope to add it as a tradition now and for years to come,” Councilman Paul Davis said.
The main stage offered Shaolin Kung Fu demonstrations and numerous dance arrangements, which
included time-honored Sakura Japanese dancing.
One of the crowd favorites was the Riverside Hua Xia Chinese School Dance production held on the steps
of the public library. “The dancers are my favorite,” said Riverside resident Ewa Lopez. “It’s nice to be
exposed to the Asian culture.”
A second stage was set up on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum, and an early performance was
provided by the Taiko Center of Los Angeles. With more than 100 active members of the group, an
ensemble of a dozen performers played the “Satori Daiko”– the drums of enlightenment.
A Catchy beat
Enjoying some shopping at the downtown mall’s farmer’s market, Elizabeth and Chris Strautman of
Riverside heard the drum tones and walked the short distance to the Lunar Festival. “We could hear the
drums; they are very different but a great sound,” she noted.
Near the main fire station, a ping pong match was under way with a friendly competition tournament,
hosted by Jay Gan of UCR, running throughout the day.
In addition to food vendors, there were tea pavilions in the upstairs gallery of the Riverside Art Museum,
which represented teas from Japan, China and India.
An evening fireworks show followed the tradition of the noise they create scaring away evil spirits and