Chicago Chinatown: Chinese New Year Parade

In addition to being Valentine’s Day this past Sunday, it was also the Chinese New Year. More specifically, it also marked the year of the Tiger. Which is good news for me, seeing as how I was born in 1974 – this is my year!

Sunday AM, I had an interest in going to Chinatown to check out the parade. Liz was busy with finishing her dessert, and couldn’t join me. So I ended up just grabbing my camera and heading on the CTA solo, looking to get some photos of dragons.

We were due in Frankfort for a dinner with her family, which meant we had to leave town around 2PM or so. While it wasn’t going to be enough time for me to stick around to watch the parade, I figured I’d at least head down for the morning and see what I could see.

At the Red Line Cermak/Chinatown stop, looking West towards the intersection of Cermak and Wentworth (technically “Old” Chinatown).

Looking towards the main parade route, and the gates at the entrance of “Old” Chinatown.

Looking NE. Beyond the main parking lot and a nearby grocery store, the mall-like area known as “New” Chinatown sits in the distance.

I had played around with the idea of trying to drive down here. And on arriving, instantly was glad I chose to take public transportation. The roads and parking looked horrible, with zero spaces available.

At the intersection of Cermak and Wentworth, looking down Wentworth. Lots of barricades were already set up in preparation for the parade.

On arriving, I was pretty hungry. I hadn’t eaten any breakfast, and was looking forward to hitting up a Chinese bakery.

I picked up a “Don Tot,” which roughly translates to Egg Tart. The exterior is a fluffy crust, similar to a really flaky croissant. The interior is a kind of egg custard. I remember these from my childhood, and still love them as an adult. Think of them as the Chinese equivalent of a Cinnamon Roll.

I arrived a little after 11:00 AM, and there wasn’t a lot going on. I wandered around a lot, hoping to catch the “blessing” rituals that take place – where dragons would go to various shops, amidst a flurry of drums and firecrackers.

Instead, I found things fairly muted. The restaurants were all full up with people, in Old and New Chinatown.

This photo is from New Chinatown, depicting a lot of Dim Sum options. I was tempted to find a restaurant and to eat, but I was alone… and was worried I’d miss a lot of the pre-parade action. So I just ended up wandering around.

Looking out onto the statue park in New Chinatown, where each aspect of the Chinese Zodiac is represented.

The Tiger statue, where many folks were posing for photos.

I forgot about all the typos. Good lord.

Tiger people are sensitive, emotional, lovable and possess a huge ego. They project a dashing figure with all the markings of bravery, power and authority. The tiger is impulsive and tempestuous and will plunge into every endeavor with all its might, often times without much thought. A tiger is both a deep thinker and careful planner, traits which are highly successful in business or as a boss. The tiger is most compatible with the horse or dog.

What’s a parade without cotton candy?

This was taken near the south end of Wentworth. I ran ahead of the guy, and really liked how this shot turned out.

As I was wandering around, I heard the sounds of drums playing. A few older men had gathered around a red drum, and were the first to kick things off.

There weren’t a lot of people around at this time, so I was able to get in a bit close. There’s something about a drummer with mirrored glasses that just looks pretty bad ass.

A closeup view, from behind.

The drummers shifted back and forth a few times, and by the time I left a small crowd had started to gather.

Further south, I found a lot of folks prepping by the parked (and empty) parade floats.

Looking North on Wentworth.

Two guys, adjusting a skyscraper as part of a Taipei float.< br />

Several women posing by their float.

Looking North up Wentworth, I noticed that the crowds have started to grow.

This is a similar shot, but really liked how it turned out.

A fairly large crowd had gathered near where the drummers had set up. Folks on either side of the street were watching several dragons, dancing to the music.

Not the greatest photo in the world, but the best one I had of the guy with the awesome Tiger haircut (far left).

A young kid was dancing as the red dragon.

A little wary.

Nearby, I saw a guy who was working pretty hard to do something with his drum.

Once I got closer, I realized he was lighting a small fire underneath/within the drum.

I’m not 100%, but I think this drum is the same one I photographed way back in 2003.

When I asked what they were doing, they told me the fire was to help “loosen” up the drum. Lots of smoke was coming out the sides as they were testing things out (with the fire still burning, underneath).

The only thing cooler than mirror sunglasses while drumming? A cigarette dangling from your mouth.

The guy with the flag was dancing a lot earlier, with the dragons. I could see him waving the flag with incredible speed, sort of like a flashing spotlight, all the way down the street.

Slowly, all the performers started to break things down and walk South, towards the parade floats. I sprinted a bit, to get in front of the flag guy for this shot.

Dragon Court.

In addition to the large dragon costumes, I saw several dragons that involved a line of pole-bearers.

Golden dragon.

Closeup, golden dragon.

Tiger banner.

An eight or nine person dragon.

Dragon procession, continued.

A few minutes later, I found the dragon (and the teenage carriers) resting against a nearby storefront.


Chinatown Mobile.

Valentine’s Day in Chinatown.

Double dragons.

Walking back up Wentworth, I was happy to see the cotton candy man surrounded by business. He looked to be doing well.

Back at the intersection of Cermak and Wentworth, looking back towards where I had come from. The crowds had really started to gather in anticipation of the parade, and it was tough making my way through the throng.

This was right at about 1:00 PM, shortly before the parade was scheduled to start. Though I couldn’t stick around, I wasn’t too interested in the parade itself.

I was hoping to get some images and video of the dragons at the various stores in Chinatown. I’ve gotten some video from a few years ago, but haven’t had the chance to record audio of the firecrackers (I even bought some ear plugs at a nearby Walgreen’s).

Still, though I missed a lot more dragon dancing… I’m glad I ventured out, if only for the early part of the day. It was fun to be an explorer again, camera in hand and no real agenda other than wandering around, seeing what I could see.

Happy (Chinese) New Year, everybody!

Playing Hooky in Chinatown
Dim Sum, 2002
Shopping and Juxtapositions
Chinese Zodiac
Year of the Ram
Here There Be Dragons
Chinatown at Night
Chinatown = Lunchtown
Dim Sum, 2005
Dim Sum in Chinatown, Phoenix Restaurant

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave A Reply