Lunar New Year was on January 23rd this year. Chinese festivities are always held at the Chinese Culture Center in the Chinatown plaza. Ticket admission was $5 (cash only) including a $2 food coupon to be used inside the facility. When you walk inside, you see a conglomeration of visuals. Hopefully, you'll notice vendors lined up along the three walls of the facility. To the left is a stage where various performances take place throughout the day; the dragon dance is typically held outside in the parking lot at noon. It was pouring rain that day, so the dragon dance was moved inside. When the skies cleared, they also performed outside.
I've been to this festival every year for the past seven years now, and the only thing that's really changed are the demographics. There were a lot more non-Asian people there this year than I have seen in years past. The word is getting out! This event takes place over Saturday and Sunday, and I went on Saturday. I want to say that the performances are pretty much the same between the two days but I honestly have not paid that much attention to them in the past few years. Sorry! There used to be programs available in years past but no more.
There is a variety of food; in all the time I've been there, a lot of the vendors not only have remained the same but they have also scored the same locations year after year. For instance, SunO is located immediately to the right once you pass through the doors. The fried chicken pictured is not what I typically order - well, let me clarify - I do typically get the fried chicken but it looks different from the one pictured. The oyster pancake is a crowd favorite, and there's always a wait for it. One of those plates is enough to fill you up! Bubble tea is served for $2 a cup. In addition to food vendors, there were also "stuff" vendors - vendors who sold grocery items and vendors who were promoting particular causes or businesses. And there were more kitsch vendors out, too - not really a fan of those, but what can you do?
I think this was Sweet Auburn BBQ's first appearance; I was so confused as to why this restaurant was at a Chinese New Year festival. A friend of mine told me later that the owner is Vietnamese. That explains it! I've yet to try out this place; it's definitely on my list!
There are usually several folding chairs out in front of the stage, but only half were available this year. You can fit more people inside the facility if they're standing! ;oP All in all, I stayed for about two hours. I went with a couple of friends, one of whom had never been to such a festival before. She had a great time! She out-Asianed Asian people by stealthily entering without paying admission (she entered through one set of doors, completely missing the ticket booth and the second set of doors) AND was given a few $2 food coupons by outgoing people. Waaaah!!! I was impressed! I'll have to see if I can pull the same ninja moves next year. ;oD
Oh, in case you're wondering where you can find more info about when this festival takes place, you have to have a Facebook account. There's no official website. Facebook invites are essentially the modern-day equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising. ^_^