Year of the Dog — Celebrating Chinese New Year in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Year of the Dog — Celebrating Chinese New Year in Nevada City

Twenty four years ago, a group of local Asian Americans and their supporters began the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierras, or CATS. A non-profit group, CATS "promotes diversity through the arts through multicultural theatre, events and workshops."

Over two decades later, the group has expanded to include Asian cooking classes, the Xiao Mao Culture Club (a children's group also known as Little CATS), and field trips meant to educate participants further on the rich history of Asian people in our community.

This Sunday, CATS will stage one of their biggest events of the year: The 7th annual Nevada City Chinese Lunar Festival and Parade in downtown Nevada City. Citing that these types of celebrations are quite rare in smaller rural towns, the group is dedicated to sharing their traditions of Chinese New Year as well as raising awareness of the contributions of and indelible mark left on Nevada County by those of Asian descent.

Jeannie Wood, executive director of CATS, said recently that the group will take on "anything that highlights the Asian culture." The parade serves to do just that.

"It is a multicultural experience," she said. "We will have donation jars at the CATS booth, but we see it as a friend-raising event rather that fundraising."

Wood said that while the parade route is short in comparison with some of Nevada City's other pageants — it will begin in front of the Chinese Monument near the top of Commercial Street and end up in the Three Forks parking lot at the foot of the same hill — there is much to see.

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Tom Taylor, who has been the technical director for CATS for over 10 years, will be this year's Grand Marshal.

The streets will come alive

An array of entries will delight onlookers along the route including an extravagant 72 foot Chinese Dragon from Eastern Ways Martial Arts of Sacramento that will add much pageantry. At the end of the route, attendees will be treated to Lion Dancers and Dragon Dancers, who will set the tone for an afternoon of Asian culture and exciting entertainment.

Nevada County Poet Laureate Molly Fisk will share some of her works, there will be demonstrations from Grass Valley Taiko and Body Balance Academy, and of course there will be Chinese and Hawaiian food available by Kaliko's Hawaiian Kitchen. Many vendors will have their wares on display for purchase as well.

Some favorites from past parades will return for the celebration: Chinese tea master Lily Emmolo will bring her popular teas and other gifts; Lincoln Easley will be on hand to paint faces; and Xiao Mao will have a booth set up for kids to do some crafting of their own.

The star of the show, arguably, will be Tilly the Great Pyrenees dog who will serve as the leader of the parade. This is, after all, the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

Specifically, it is the Year of the Earth Dog, an occasion which only occurs every 60 years. People who are born under the sign of the dog are said to be loyal, friendly, and kind — much like man's best friend.

Wood, while explaining that the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival is indeed a celebratory occasion, said that it has a deeper significance here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.

"Even though [we live in] the whitest county in California, at one time in the 1860s there was a vibrant Chinese community. During the Gold Rush and building of railroads there were thousands of Chinese in the area, even more than were in major metropolitan areas. Eventually they were driven out through discrimination."

Wood said that honoring ancestors and making sure their stories aren't lost with time is at the core of all that CATS seeks to accomplish.

"What CATS tries to do is to expand on the message," she said. "People need to realize that many immigrant groups helped build this country; our message is so timely."

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer for The Union and can be contacted at jenkrisnobles@gmail.com.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: The 7th Annual Nevada City Chinese Lunar Festival and Parade

WHERE: Parade begins at the Chinese Monument at the top of Commerical St., and the Festival takes place in the Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co., 211 Commercial St., Nevada City

WHEN: The parade starts at noon on Sunday

INFO: For more information visit catsweb.org