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Horsing around: Hilo ushers in Chinese New Year this weekend

Hilo Chinese New Year Festival Schedule of Events

9 a.m.: Big Island Shaolin Arts Lion Dance Blessings of Benjamin Moore Paint What Matters project area, Kamehameha Avenue to Kalakaua Street.

10 a.m.: Mistress of Ceremonies Desiree Moana Cruz Lion Dance blessings open festival with firecrackers at EHCC, Hawaii Museum of Contemporary Art, At Kalakaua Park, 10:30 a.m.: Keiki Chinese fashion show

11:30 a.m.: Hui Okinawa’s Kobudo Taiko & Shisa Lion

12 p.m.: Hawaii Community College Culinary Arts Program students and faculty food demo and free tasting (while supplies last)

1 p.m.: Tai Chi with Peter Tam Hoy and students

1:30 p.m.: Mo Min Kuen Monkey martial arts demo

2:15 p.m.: Chinese songs with Rulin Xiu

2:30 p.m.: Mo Min Kuen Monkey martial arts demo and closing ceremony

After 12 years of managing the annual Hilo Chinese New Year Festival, Alice Moon said this year will be her last.

“It’s a completion of the circle and completion of my cycle and I’m not going to do it again next year,” she said during an interview with the Tribune-Herald earlier this week. “I’ve achieved the goals I’ve set out to do, which includes one, to revive the Chinese New Year on this island and number two, to bring positive energy and people and excitement to the historic downtown area.”

What started as a 500- to 800-person event in the early 2000s has grown to attract about 6,000 attendees in 2013. While Lunar New Year festivities occur in other parts of Hawaii, Moon attests those who visit Hilo’s event will get more than just firecrackers and food, although there’s plenty of that as well.

“We look to share and learn about this part of the culture,” she said. “The Chinese New Year traditional celebration is larger than what you’ll experience in Honolulu because those traditions have been lost. We’ve set specific goals. Bring the Chinese New Year celebration back to the island.”

Some things you can expect include wisdom from I-Ching practitioners. According to Moon, I-Ching is an ancient Chinese practice and is a way to seek advice and wisdom regarding life and major decisions. There will also be Chinese calligraphy, dancing and a chance to provide an offering to the Big Island Shaolin Arts Lion Dancers. This is the Chinese Lunar New Year of the horse.

“If you see the lion, you need to give them money. That is an old tradition that we have been able to keep,” she said. “Everybody loves to do it. Whatever you give them will come back to you 100,000-fold. Maybe not in money, but in riches.”

Typically, the offering is provided in a red envelope or “lai see.” Moon suggested attendees provide their offering in increments of eight, since eight is a lucky number.

Saturday’s events will start at 9 a.m. with a blessing by the lion dancers at the Hilo Farmer’s Market. The blessing is to honor the paintwork that Benjamin Moore &Co. completed Jan. 31 as part of the company’s “Main Street Matters” campaign.

Hilo was one of 20 communities across North America chosen from more than 800 applicants to win a new paint job as part of the paint company’s promotion.

Following the blessing, the lion dancers will continue down Kamehameha Avenue sidewalks to Kalakaua Street and be at the park at 10 a.m. to open the festival with a “big blessing with lots of firecrackers,” Moon said.

Currently, Moon is still trying to raise $1,000 for the event and donations can be made at

As for whether or not the festival will continue next year, Moon said she is encouraging the community to get involved and to take action.

Email Megan Moseley at


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