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Chinese New Year Parade roars back to life in San Francisco

Lion dancers participate in the Chinese New Year Parade along Market Street on Feb. 19, 2022, in San Francisco. (Santiago Mejia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — The San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade roared back to life Saturday evening after 2021’s cancellation due to COVID.

Many said Chinatown saw the biggest crowds this weekend since March 2020, and it was a much-needed economic boost for the small businesses.

Thousands of people from across the region lined up along the 1.3-mile parade route to watch the floats and celebrate the Year of the Tiger.

“To be back feels great. We are vaccinated, and it feels good to finally be out with everybody and celebrate the love of our culture,” said Janice Tran, who came from San Jose to watch the parade.

The parade kicked off with the deafening sounds of firecrackers meant to scare away evil spirits. This year, organizers hoped the loud pops would also ward off COVID-related problems.

The Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco is said to be the biggest parade outside of Asia.

“I love the Alaska Airlines (float), the blue tiger,” said Santa Cruz resident Ollie Phillips, who was attending the parade for the first time.

Mixed in with the many tigers in the parade were the traditional lion and dragon dancers.

Actor Daniel Wu was the grand marshal, and Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee was the honorary marshal. Both have been active in the fight against Asian hate.

“With all the hate, the Asian hate going on, it’s nice to see everyone appreciate the Asian culture again and spread love,” said San Jose resident Leslie Nguyen.

Some believe the hate and misinformation about the coronavirus contributed to the struggles in Chinatown during the pandemic.

Business owners said foot traffic dropped big time in the last two years, leading to many store closures.

“It was like a ghost town. No one came to shop. People were afraid of Chinatown,” said Mei Fu in Cantonese.

Fu owns Mei Mei Fashion. She said Saturday was the best day for her clothing store post-pandemic.

Chinatown merchants said they haven’t seen so many people in almost two years. Many restaurants were packed. Some had long lines stretching out the door.

“The street fair is very good. The shoppers are helping to boost the economy. We’re so happy,” said Chinatown business owner Connie Wong in Cantonese.

Those who attended the parade were glad it was back and enjoyed the festivities and fun.

“Just good vibes,” said first time Chinese New Year Parade attendee Brian Truong.

“It feels good to celebrate who we are and where we came from,” Tran said.