Chinatown’s annual street festival returned on Aug. 19, with a renewed focus on sharing the diversity of Asian cultures with the wider Calgary community.
The Chinatown BIA, which organizes the event, said that this year was about putting emphasis on multiculturalism.
“It is a multicultural event, so we have a lot of support from everybody. The community is behind an event like this,” said Grace Su, Chair for the Chinatown BIA.
That support, said Su, has grown to the point where the festival had sold out its vendor and tent spots in June, well ahead of the August festival date.
“We have many vendors that wanted to come, but we couldn’t actually make room for them. It gives us a lot of encouragement, knowing that we are actually very welcome and people are looking forward to the festival,” Su said.
This festival featured performances ranging from K-Pop and Filipino dancers, Vietnamese, Han Dynasty, and qipao (long Chinese dress) fashion shows, and a singing contest.
She said that she hopes that visitors will continue to see Chinatown as a place to visit, even after the festival.
“We want people to linger on a little bit longer, go and visit our stores and enjoy the cuisines… go down the streets of Chinatown, enjoy the atmosphere, but also take a visit in the cultural centre. They have a fantastic museum over there, too,” Su said.
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Su said that the festival, which celebrated its 20th year, was a reflection of the continued interest in Chinatown as a destination.
“Twenty years is a long time, but you know the history of Chinatown is over 110 years. This is an opportunity for us to showcase diversity, inclusivity, and enjoying our culture with everybody else. Coming together is an expression of our culture and heritage.”
Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong echoed Su in saying that the street festival was a reflection of the longer history of Chinese people in Calgary.
“I think what’s really important for Calgarians, not just the Chinese community, is to understand the roots in the history of Calgary. Particularly the fact that for 140 years, Chinese people have been a part of the building the city, and not only building the railway but also creating what Calgary is really all about,” Wong said.
“It’s about resilience, sustainability, and building culture and heritage. I think that Chinatown Street Festival was one way a community can let the rest of Calgary and southern Alberta know that we’re here.”
Coun. Wong said that he’d had an opportunity over the summer to visit a number of other Chinatowns across North America, including those in San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Vancouver.
“Calgary’s Chinatown is vibrant, though it does need a little more work in terms of making sure it’s clean, safe, secure, as well as boosting our destination booster experience,” he said.
“But when we take a look at the other Chinatowns around, they’ve gone through a lot of other issues, particularly around social disorder and encampments. Seattle and Vancouver have done some things to clean it up, but bringing revitalization back in the area is still a struggle for both their cities.”