ALAMEDA -- The Year of the Snake got a warm welcome Saturday at the 15th annual Spring Festival on Bay Farm Island.
Also known for honoring the Lunar New Year, the Spring Festival was organized by the Harbor Bay Intercultural Committee. It featured several activity and information booths and performances near the water by school bands, magicians and martial arts schools.
Raymond Tang, co-president of the Intercultural Committee, said the Year of the Snake will be a wonderful year to bring together friends, family and the community.
"It will be a good year for everybody, and I'd like to share that with everyone," he said.
Lunar New Year was officially Feb. 10, but the Spring Festival had a strong Lunar New Year element to it. Festival hosts talked about giving and receiving red envelopes stuffed with money, and the festival featured a dragon dance.
The Year of the Snake honors one of 12 animals present on the Chinese zodiac calendar. The snake is known to be intelligent and perhaps unscrupulous. The festival opened at 11 a.m., and performances began at noon. While the Lincoln Middle School Band struck up Gershwin's "Shake Up the Band," Able Li took in the sights and sounds of the event. Li, 19, is an exchange student from Chinese University of Hong Kong studying statistics for a semester at UC Berkeley. He said the spirit of Lunar New Year was present in Alameda for the day and felt a strong connection to the festival.
"Chinese New Year means everything starts new again and all the bad luck goes away," he said. "It's an occasion where all the relatives meet and they can talk. It's tradition."
On one side of the festival grounds in Harbor Bay Landing Shopping Center, two older Chinese men wrote good wishes for people in calligraphy using black paint and red paper. On another side, a chef from ARK Chinese Restaurant on Park Street carved fruit into birds and flowers.
"It's very traditional to celebrate Chinese New Year," Sun Wu, of ARK, said. "Americans celebrate, Christmas and this is our holiday."
At another table, children spent $1 to spin the wheel of luck to win gift cards to local restaurants and shops or the grand prize, a one-month family membership to Harbor Bay Club worth more than $500. The money raised went to the Alameda Food Bank.
Jan Shawn spent the afternoon talking with passers-by about the Mastick Senior Center. A longtime Alamedan who goes to the center frequently, Shawn said she also celebrates the Lunar New Year in a traditional way.
"It means a new start, a new perspective, peace, happiness, good luck and good health," she said. "But mostly it's for health and longevity. Otherwise, you can't enjoy the rest."