Looking for free family fun on Saturday?
Well, not only can you entertain the entire family for free with puppet shows, arts and crafts, and a Tai Chi workshop at the Chinese Arts Alliance’s Chinese New Year festival, but also you can also enjoy an interactive cultural immersion that highlights Asian food, Chinese lion dances, and of course the rippling 60-foot dragon parade.
The Alliance festival’s dragon dancers, lion dancers, Chinese dancers and contemporary dancers will all create the Chinese Rabbit New Year spirit, according to Jen-Jen Lin, director of the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville (CAAN), the driving force behind the event.
“Lion dance and dragon dance are traditionally presented at festivals like Chinese New Year. Both the lion and dragon are symbols of good luck, fortune, strength and power in Chinese culture,” said Lin.
“It is very family oriented – and is a mix of professional and non-professionals,” said Lin, who says she created the event as a way to showcase its lion and dragon dances to the community.
“We get so many requests” from schools and other community groups that want to see the dramatic dancers.
“But they have no idea what is involved,” said Lin, who said that taking the dances to multiple locations for performances demands a lot of planning and coordination.
As an alternative, she organized the Chinese New Year Festival as an annual event that would feature the dragon and lion and more Chinese culture. “I wanted to have a free public event where people can see it.”
At first, the Chinese New Year fest was a small gathering near Vanderbilt but in recent years it attracted 500-600 people and seemed to be outgrowing its location. Lin hopes that with the added entertainment and larger venue, this year will be the biggest ever.
In addition to the Alliance’s dragon dance (which features 10 “very athletic” dancers including a bodybuilder, gymnasts and expert dancers to perform its 60-foot parade extravaganza) and the lion dance which requires a two-person team, this year’s event adds a number of other entertainment options.
The Nashville Zoo is bringing its Giant Continental Rabbit to join the fun. CAAN is offering bunny headband making, bunny face painting, Chinese tangram puzzle, and ring toss games. Sister Cities of Nashville is hosting a kite flying workshop.
Plus, the Nashville Public Library’s Puppet Truck is presenting “the Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings.”
For the first time, this colorful festival, which has been held at Vanderbilt Park in Hillsboro Village for the last seven years, will be held in the Musicians Corner area of Centennial Park — which is finally a location big enough to highlight all that the event has to offer.
“With Musicians Corner, the space is better. It is more complicated (to put together a festival in the park) but I think we can grow into it,” Lin said.
Focusing on the Year of the Rabbit, organizers suggest that you “dress in your favorite Rabbit character costume, such as Jade Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit, Energizer Bunny or Thumper. Or put on a Chinese outfit or simply wear red. Red is the lucky color for Chinese New Year.”
Lin says that the Chinese believe people who are born in the year of the rabbit are calm and peaceful. “They avoid fighting and arguing but are artistic and have good taste for life. The Rabbit’s kindness may make them seem soft and weak. In truth, the Rabbit’s quiet personality hides their confidence and strength.”
I say HOP on over to the park for this event – after all it is the “Year of the Rabbit.”
Here are some highlights of the Chinese New Year Celebration:
Activities (11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Puppet show, arts/crafts for kids, Chinese naming, Chinese knotting workshop, TaiChi workshop. Teaching artists from Frist Art Museum are leading an art-making program, and teaching artists from Nashville Ballet will lead an exploration of rabbit movement.
Food Trucks (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.): Asian food trucks including: Changkham Shushi, ChaoFan Food Truck, and Laovin will be on hand.
Performances (1 -3 p.m.): Lion dance, dragon dance, Chinese dances, songs, music, Chinese martial arts, and schools’ presentations. At the end, a rippling 60-foot dragon will lead a parade through Centennial Park.
Performers: Contemporary musicians Mandy Moon, Mei Hwen and Andrei will present their own songs, and Sheerea Yu from Nashville Youth Poet Laureate will recite a poem she wrote about her Chinese American experience. The international special guest is Yeli Ensemble, which will play the African drums, thanks to the AfricaNashville organization’s coordination.
Lin noted that CAAN is collaborating with a number of schools that have Chinese language learners (MLK Magnet High School, Brentwood High, Ensworth Lower School, Montgomery Bell Academy, and Merrol Hyde Magnet School) for this Chinese New Year Celebration event.
This event is made possible by grants from the Nissan Foundation, TN Arts Commission, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, Caterpillar Financial, South Arts (in association with National Endowment for the Arts), and Vanderbilt University.