Local Chinese New Year festival pivots online, keeping tradition alive through pandemic

The festival was even able to add to the lineup this year
Local Chinese New Year festival pivots online, keeping tradition alive through pandemic
Posted at 5:49 PM, Feb 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-06 19:49:05-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — For those in our community who hold the Chinese New Year close, the local celebrations almost had to come to a halt this year.

Luckily, organizers and performers found a way to make the 20th annual Colorado Springs Chinese New Year Festival work virtually this year.

Having been born and raised in Hawaii, Rhonda Maehara will tell you, the Chinese New Year is a big deal.

“In Hawaii where I grew up, we always celebrated,” Maehara said. “They have a big Chinatown… they shut the streets down. And they have fairs and entertainment and food galore.”

But when she moved to the Springs over two decades ago, she missed that taste of home.

“In Colorado Springs there really wasn’t anything,” she said.

20 years ago, Maehara and others came together to put on the first ever Colorado Springs Chinese New Year Festival.

“We have entertainers that do the lion dance,” she said. “We also have vendors that do the different Asian dances.”

But come last March, the festival’s organizers decided to pivot.

“We thought about whether we should do it or not,” Maehara said, “All the entertainers wanted to perform. So we were so grateful that they were able to provide us with videos that we were able to stitch together a festival online.”

The Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute edited all those clips together into a nearly two-hour long virtual festival.

It has everything you’d expect in person. The musicians, the dancers, the acrobats, even the lion dancers, are still here to bring people like Maehara that taste of home.

“Because we’re doing this online this year, we could add different things that we normally wouldn’t have had in the show,” she said.

Even the food--the aspect of the festival Maehara says may be the most important--still found a way to be a part of this year’s virtual festival.

“Like the cooking demonstrations for dumplings,” Maehara said. “That appeals to a different group of people who are really into the food.”

Virtual attendees also get to take a tour of some traditional Chinese restaurants, getting an inside look at how some different traditional Chinese New Year dishes are prepared.

The entire virtual festival, as well as some individual extended cuts of the performances, are available to view on the Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute’s website through at least the end of the month, free of charge.

For Maehara and countless others, this is more than just a celebration.

“It’s a huge holiday for us,” she said. “There’s a lot of tradition.”

It’s a taste of home.

“For me, it truly is very special to see the lion dance,” she said.

A taste of home, too important to miss.