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December 8, 2023

City Fulfills Promise With Lunar New Year Fest

Healdsburg celebrates the Year of the Rabbit and the local AAPI community

Don’t expect dragon parades or a lantern festival at the Healdsburg Plaza this Sunday, Feb. 5.  Instead, a number of nonprofits and community volunteers will be holding a Lunar New Year festival. Drumming, jazz, tai chi and Asian-American street food will be part of the program, from 10:30am to 2pm. 

“This is a community-led grassroots event,” said Mayor Ariel Kelley, one of the key organizers of the event. She highlighted the participation of nonprofits including the Asian American Pacific Islander Coalition, the Redwood Empire Chinese Association, Healdsburg Museum and Healdsburg Jazz, who “will be tabling and providing resources to support unity and belonging for our Asian American and Pacific Islander community.” 

Kelley traced the origin of the Lunar New Year celebration to the Stop Asian Hate rally in 2021, which was precipitated when “a local business owner received a terrible racist letter, which then spurred local activists to host a rally in the Plaza.” 

She said, “During that rally, several folks spoke of the rich history of the Asian American community in Healdsburg, including a Lunar New Year celebration that used to occur here in the Plaza.” Speakers also talked about the “dark racist experiences that took place in Healdsburg” in years past. “It was a very  moving event, with artistry and beauty, and I never forgot the tragic stories that were shared about the bigotry that our Healdsburg residents faced in the past and that still persists today.”

Even before she became mayor in December 2022, Kelley took a particular interest in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in Healdsburg, and with their help crafted this weekend’s Lunar New Year event. “Part of this effort has been to use my role as mayor to build some community cohesion around the idea and allowing this to be resident-led by the Asian-American community,” said Kelley. “It has been wonderful getting to know the representatives of our county-wide Japanese, Chinese and AAPI Coalition groups and inviting them to participate in Healdsburg’s event.  

The Lunar New Year is important in Asian cultures, especially among Chinese and Vietnamese. Many Native peoples recognize it as well. It’s marked by the first new moon after the winter solstice, usually falling in mid-January. That was Jan. 22 this year, a period of time that saw heavy rains throughout the state.

Sunday’s event starts off with free coffee from Black Oak Coffee, plus a tai chi chuan demonstration by Master David Chung at 10:30. At 11am, Sonoma County Taiko will perform on the resonant Japanese drums, followed at noon by a Culture and Lion Dance from the Redwood Empire Chinese Association. 

The Jim Adams Trio then takes the stage representing Healdsburg Jazz, playing straight-ahead jazz. Guitarist Adams will welcome a new jazz talent to join him in Ben Prentice, a former Healdsburg High School jazz band musician, as visitors can begin browsing the “street food” offered by a number of local vendors along Plaza Street: Dim Sum & Then Sum, Sang San, Jam’s Joy Bungalow, and Quail and Condor. 

The City of Healdsburg is supporting the logistics and setup for the event, and community volunteers are organizing the program, according to community services director Mark Themig. 

Updated information is available at tinyurl.com/yefdavyv.

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