BZ's 2010 Chinese New Year Parade

Photo Gallery

This year, I got some really great access, and was able to cover the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade in a way I couldn't before! With a media pass, I was able to move about most of the parade route, and really to go after the shots I was looking for.
Billed as the largest Chinese New Year parade/celebration outside of Asia, and one of the top 10 parades in the U.S., this year's event was every bit as exciting and loud as I imagined it would be. There were tons of Lions, and Dragons, and firecrackers (oh my!) - With the pounding beat of the Lion dance drums and cymbals, it was the very essence of Chinese New Year!
This was also a great excuse to try out my new wide angle lens - which I'm still figuring out the best way to use. Some of the shots turned out quite well. Hope you like them too!

Nikon D300 w/ 18-105mm VR, D200 w/ Tokina 11-16mm lens - Bernard Zee


San Francisco Chinatown is a great tourist destination. Lots of nooks and crannies to explore, with plenty of interesting stores and restaurants. There are some great food there, and sad to say, some horrible dining as well. I imagine those bad ones survive only because of the constant stream of unsuspecting tourist!
I'm really generalizing here, but if the restaurant is tucked away somewhere, but there's still a long line of people waiting to get in - pretty reasonable chance it's great tasting food. On the other hand, if it's in a prime location, and it's not bursting at the seams with people... chances are you're going to regret eating there!


Before the parade, there's the Community Fair, which runs Saturday and Sunday. As you can see here, the streets are just packed with people.


Here's a young lad playing with what I presume is a new Bubble shooter toy. Looks like he's asking to get yelled at!


There was this huge Lion head on display. I though it was just a static item, but they actually did carry it on the parade. No acrobatic moves with it though! It was all 4 people could do to hoist it along.


The Chinese New Year parade is held a couple of weeks after the New Year. The days before and immediately after the Lunar New Year are typically a very busy time of family activities and get togethers.


Some high schoolers volunteer as Street Fair Marshals. Didn't see them packing six shooters though!


Among the many booths at the fair was the California State Lottery. I guess plenty of people dream of getting lucky, and winning the big one!


A little bit outside the tourist area, THIS is the real working Chinatown. Man, it looks brutal trying to fight a way onto a bus. Don't underestimate the old ladies either - they'll cheap shot you with their bony elbows!


Back at the street fair, activities are winding down as everyone starts to pack up before the parade. I really wasn't paying much attention to what they were promoting, but this young lady belting out a tune looked to be having fun.


Flowers are always a welcomed sight at a fair.


And so are Gundam models and DVDs of questionable origin!


Time to leave Chinatown, and make my way back to Market street to check out the parade preparations.


On the way out, I see some Lion dancers getting their gear together and heading out as well.


This group of young ladies caught my eye near the parade start point. Turns out these are the Shanxi Dancers visiting from China. They had a performance earlier in the week, and will play the drums on a float later on in the parade.


Also in elaborate costume were these Thai dancers.


Thought this was a nice shot of some girls playing around before the parade.


SFPD getting their dragon situated.


They coiled the dragon up in what I thought was a pretty cool manner.


Here's Bank of America's Float, with the golden gourd, and the God of Longevity Wu Lou. The golden gourd symbolizes good health. Of course I had to look it up! I had incorrectly thought it was about money!


Relaxing nearby were these young Lion dancers.


And here's one of the youngest dragon I've seen yet!


Colorfully dressed dancers from one of the schools participating in the parade.


Another look at the Shanxi Dancers and their really cool hats! Yeah, yeah. That's what I was looking at!


In case I haven't mentioned it yet (and I don't think I have), this is the year of the Tiger.


Here, the St. Mary's girls pose with...I don't know. Some mildly disturbing character!


Dressed in nice red New Year's colored coats. Perfect for the unpredictable San Francisco weather. Which thankfully was just perfect for the parade. Having rained earlier in the day, the evening was clear and relatively warm!


Some lion dancers do a dry run to warm up.


The lion rear has a tough job. Always hunched over, and then having to lift and act as a stepping stool for the other guy!


One of the cymbal players from Mills High School.


They're from Cathy Pacific. They look like real flight attendants! Cathy Pacific had an airplane themed float in the parade.


Several streets were closed to traffic for the assembly area and parade route. SFPD had things well in hand there.


Their website said the dancers were aged between 17 and 26...


Good idea to snack a bit before the parade.


Thunder Valley Casino had a fan float with pop up ladies. Looks quite uncomfortable for any lenght of time.


SFPD had a large presence there: as Lion dancers, and keeping the peace!


West Portal Lion Dancers.


Oakland Fire Department brought out a cool looking old fire engine.


A sword wielding tiger stilt walker!


Headed to the parade start are the Junior ROTC from Galileo High School.


The Exhibition Drill team from Galileo.


Here's Lowell's ROTC Drum Corps.


Girls Drill team from Lowell are all smiles.


Some top brass from the San Francisco Fire Dept.
The parade kicked off with a flurry of firecrackers. Click play below to hear a bit of what it was like!



A SFPD Harley snakes between performers and photographers.


I believe the Oakland Fire Dept had their own Lion Dancers, which preceded the Engine.


Ever wonder why most of the police cars you see nowadays are Ford Crown Victorias? That's because GM stopped making large 4 door sedans like the Caprice, which used to be the mainstay of many a taxi company and police dept. To fill the void, Chevy's solution was to offer a modified Tahoe SUV as seen here. It's kind of cool looking, but I don't think it has caught on like GM wanted it to.


Some very young Lion Dancers head up the SFPD contingent.


Here are the SF boys in blue manning their dragon.


They had quite a few lion dancers as well!



It's hard work running a dragon back and forth. Everyone had to switch off once in a while!


For some reason, people LOVE to want to touch the Lions and especially the dragons.


Some lady jumped out into the street just to stroke the Blue lion. Must be for luck!


Got a big wave from State Senator Leland Yee, which represents the 8th Senate District - of which San Francisco is a part of.


Another somewhat familiar name was California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, which represents the 12th Assembly District (which includes San Francisco).


Carmen Chu is a member of San Francisco Board of Supervisors.


Sophie Maxwell is another member on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.


Some cute horses trotting by.


Jeff Adachi is another name I hear on the radio once in a while. Probably because S.F. tends to have more than its share of legal challenges and rulings on their laws.


The streets lining the parade route were PACKED! Especially close to the starting point.


A couple of SFPD Crown Vics in the parade.


These are the 8 immortals of Chinese mythology. They are considered to be signs of prosperity and longevity, and are popular themes in ancient art.


Norman Yee is the commissioner at the SF board of Education. Riding in a pretty cool convertible!


Young dancers from the Alice Fong Yu Alternative School. Said to be the first public chinese immersion school.


Cute little red packets! money money money!


Jane Kim is the President of the Board of Education. Looking good!


These dancers are from the Thai Cultural Center.


Though you can't see it very well, here, the front of this float had the 3 deities: Fuk, Luk, Sau - which represent prosperity, authority and longevity.


These ribbon dancers are from West Portal Elementary school.


I believe Sina is a Chinese news media organization.


One of the youngest dragons of the day here. Sina's float can be seen ahead, whose theme looked to be the Terra Cotta soldiers.


West Portal Elementary Lion Dance Troupe, hitching a ride on the back of a truck.


Here are those energetic lions dancing to the pounding beats of the drum, and the crashing cymbals.


Jose Ortega Elementary kids were ready for precipitation, with their lion themed umbrellas!


Dragon boats are normally seen later in the year (at the dragon boat races of course). But here's one with an early start!


These girls are from the Chinese American International School.


The CAIS brought along a surprisingly elaborate float.


Here's that Thunder Valley Casino Float. The various Indian casinos are a big draw for many.


A wide angle shot showing the pop open fan surprise!


Here's the Wells Fargo Float, which is quite unmistakable with that stagecoach. Good luck getting that tiger to pull it though!


These are the Foster City Chinese Club fan dancers.


Got some nice shots of them!


Really don't know what to make of this one. I think it's a recycle trash dragon... as it was dragging aluminum cans at the tail end, and had shoes for teeth.


I'm sure they had good intentions, but it really looks and feels the complete opposite of what a Chinese dragon should be. I don't think anyone was trying to touch it as it went by.


A favorite is the garbage colletion precision drill team.


Friendly waves from the Bank of America float.


Another very young dragon!


UC Davis Marching Band. Go Ags!


About this time, the parade stalls a bit, and there's a crowd starting to gather. Got a nice shot of some West Coast Lion Dancers about to check out...


Gavin Newsom (of course!), the mayor of San Francisco! He is I admit, quite the skilled politician. Never one to waste an opportunity, he's in among the crowd glad handing and posing for pictures!


Here's Gavin back in his classic convertible ride as the parade got moving again.


Skies are pretty dark by now.


Some lions enthusiastically got face to face with the crowd, which usually delighted - but can be unnerving for some! :-)


A dynamic trio of lions.


Lion Dancing is physically demanding work (if done properly!).


A couple of lady dancers from Lee's Martial Arts academy. Some 'big heads' can be seen behind them.


Some Lion Dancers who worked up a sweat, take a quick break.


Great movement from this one!


Walking with the lions down Market street!


Lok Sang Lee Kung Fu had not one, but 2 dragons there! The smaller/lighter one can be better animated, but the bigger one looks more impressive.


They also brought their share of Lions.


This is the 2nd dragon from Lok Sang Lee Kung Fu.


People like to touch the dragon as it passes for luck...


I'm sure to be super lucky this year then! I got brushed by the dragons a lot as I try to get a close in shot - which sometimes had me scrambling trying to avoid being trampled!


A different angle as they ran the dragon back and forth.


Here are the Shanxi Dancers drumming on their float.


Very attractive costumes! Click play below to hear a sample of their performance.



The Lucky Float featured the Happy Buddha, and was accompanied by dancing ricebowls (unpictured).


The KTVU Channel 2 News crew rode in a couple of bus trolleys.


The Verizon float.


Flags from the San Francisco Renegades Drum and Bugle Corps.


Some youngsters from (I believe) Garfield Elementary riding on a float.


Young drummers


Kung Fu tigers showing off their form!


Drummers on the back of a pickup providing audio excitement.


The Visa float, plastered with different currency money. Hmmm... I thought you couldn't make a reproduction of U.S. currency without being considered counterfeiting! :-)


The UPS float. I love them, since they're the ones that usually deliver my toys to me!


This is the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band.


The Ma Tsu Temple brought out a large contingent.


These 2 Guardians are always a big hit at the parade!


They walk in measured steps with huge arm swings with firecrackers accompanying them all the way.



I try of course, to get shots with the firecrackers going off. It's tough when I have to deal with a longish flash recharge time though!


The Ma Tsu shrine gets carried behind the Guardians.


Temple members follow along holding lanterns.


More lanterns by elementary school aged kids.


Another parade sponser was McDonalds. I have no idea what those are supposed to be in front of the giant happy meal (which I could really go for!). Look like mice - but may be some sort of stylized tigers. I guess.


Flags from Riordan.


Drummers of the Loong Mah (Dragon Horse) Lion Dance Group.


They're pumped to be running the dragon!


Some members of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce waving to the crowd.


College Park School is a mandarin immersion program for kids in San Mateo. The kids look so adorable!


Looks like a gymnastics tiger.


This is the Bank of the West float. They're like tigers guarding your cauldron of money!


These are students from Mills High School.


Looks pretty neat, when they swing those huge flags like weapons!


Mills HS had an awesome dragon!


One of my favorite shots of the day! The dragon looks so alive, so vibrant!


The Boy Scotts also participated in the parade.


I'm a sucker for a float full of beautiful women!


These cuties are on the Sing Tao Daily float.


Sing Tao is a Chinese media company that has an office in San Francisco. Big in Chinese print and radio.


And here's the lovely Miss Congeniality 2010, Tong Qiao. She looks really friendly!


Behind them were more beauty pagent winners! 4th Princess Angela Wang sure has a winning smile!


Pictured here are Miss San Francisco Chinatown Christina Zhang, and 2nd Princess Li Li.


Sitting on her throne of roses is the Winner of the 2010 Miss Chinatown USA, Crystal Lee from San Francisco, CA! I read that she was a freshman at Stanford University. Wow, smart and pretty!


Comcast had a sort of dancing float theme.


Walking along with the float were these fan dancers.


Silver Legacy casino had of course, a money (ok, prosperity) themed float.


Kong Hei Fat Choy!


SFPD on dirt bikes. I thought they might do something cool like ride in a complicated formation... If they did, I missed it!


Members of Leung's White Crane brought the closing touches to the parade.


Elwood: "...it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses."


Here is that giant Lion head seen earlier on static display. It was so BIG, that they really wouldn't move it around like a normal lion. They would need the incredible hulk for that!





What they are really known for though, is their magnificent Golden Dragon.


Called 'Gum Lung', the dragon is over 200 ft long.


Manned by 100 people, they have to switch off every so often, as it's one big heavy dragon!


Accompanied by huge strings of firecrackers, the Golden Dragon is a mighty impressive sight!


I had thousands of firecrackers going off all around me, and my ears were taking a beating!



No ear and eye protection of course; But it was great!


The longish exposure, and the lit dragon combine to give the picture so much life and energy. It's like it's bathed in fire!











It was so easy to get trapped by the dragon, and the only way not to get left behind ws to jump in between pole holders!


A little overboard with the Golden Dragon shots I know, but I liked it!


I'd like to thank the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for organizing the parade, and giving me the opportunity to shoot it!



www.bernardzee.com