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Oakland Lunar New Year Parade blessed by break between storms

Oakland Lunar New Year Parade gets brief break from storms
Oakland Lunar New Year Parade gets brief break from storms 03:05

OAKLAND -- Organizers of Oakland's Lunar New Year Parade were worried about the weather forecast for Sunday but the storm was late arriving and the celebration was held under sunny skies in what some see as a lucky start to a new year.

"Feels like there's something shining down on Oakland today. Someone's blessing us with this wonderful weather and this incredible celebration," said Oakland resident and parade-goer Amy Wat.

With forecasts of heavy rainfall, it looked like Oakland's Lunar New Year's Parade would take it on the chin but, when the city instead awoke to blue skies, crowds came out and organizers were beside themselves with joy.

"This turnout is amazing!" said Stewart Chen, president of the Oakland Chinatown Improvement Council. "We were worried about the rain. We were worried about some of the crime that's happening around Oakland and Oakland Chinatown. So we were worried about low turnout but it proved everybody wrong!"

The council brought the parade back last year after a 30-year hiatus as a way to help struggling businesses. 2023 was a tough year for the entire city, so a chance to gather outside -- not to protest or complain but just to have fun -- was as welcome as the warm sunshine.

"This was an amazing, amazing day!" city councilmember Nikki Fortunado Bas told the crowd. "Last year, it was cold. It's been rainy and the sun has come out! So, as we celebrate the year of the wooden dragon, it's a year of strength. It's a year of ushering in positive change. And do we know that we need positive change? Yes!"

As she cheered on parade marchers, Amy Wat reflected on how important it was for Oaklanders to have something to celebrate.

"Everybody's looking for a win. It's not just Oakland, it's everybody," she said. "But Oakland, I think, really needed a celebration like this to pull everybody together. And I'm really enjoying dressing up for it and seeing other people dress up, in all the red they possibly can, to bring fortune."

To many Westerners, the Year of the Dragon may be just a quaint tradition, but Asian cultures put a lot of importance on setting a good tone for the new year. And with daunting problems still hanging over Oakland -- from rising crime to budget deficits -- it may help to have the strength of the dragon watching over the city.

"I think things like this show that there's still a city with a lot of life and a lot of good things that go on," said Mathew Pang. "It's a good reminder of why we want to push to make things better."

And there's no better time to do that than the dawn of a new year.

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