The Alhambra prepares for the Lunar New Year festival and the “healing” after a mass shooting

Alhambra officials hope to ‘start the healing’ by moving forward with the city’s annual Lunar New Year festival on Sunday, a week after the event was canceled following a mass shooting in nearby Monterey Park which left 11 people dead.

Organizers said they were struggling to organize the celebration, as the community mourned with the rest of the country after the January 21 shooting. The victims were shot amid Lunar New Year festivities at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio.

Shooter Huu Can Tran then proceeded to the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio at Alhambra, where he was disarmed by 26-year-old Brandon Tsay, who will be honored at Sunday’s rally. Tran then committed suicide.

“We thought: what is the best way to serve the community and meet the needs of those affected? said John Bwarie, CEO of the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce, one of the main organisers. “Between Sunday and Tuesday, it was a conversation about safety, logistics and relevance.”

The festival will be held in downtown Alhambra and will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will include lion dancers, candy sculptures, a farmer’s market, children’s activities, and a variety of food vendors.

Since 1992, chamber leaders have worked with city officials to produce the street festival, minus a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. The tragedy forced the closure of the second day of the Monterey Park Lunar New Year festival last week, prompting Alhambra residents and business owners to do intense soul-searching.

For advice, Bwarie and others reached out to food vendors, performers and nonprofit activists, as well as Asian American and Pacific Islander groups that have worked to combat anti-terrorism hate crimes. AAPI.

Some vendors decided to pull out – their staff were “too emotional after the crisis,” he said. “Or were they worried that if they made an effort to show up, every nine hours, would there be customers? I’m not saying that money matters more than life. Of course not. Still, there’s a whole collection of people who make the Lunar New Year festival circuit and they depend on it to survive.

In the end, the organizing team decided “it had to be done. Even if it doesn’t look like everyone expected – like it did in years past. The continuation of the celebration creates a certain sense of normalcy in the chaos that people were experiencing,” Bwarie said. “There’s the idea of ​​what it means to be in community. We want to provide the best opportunity for all of us to start healing together.

Planners had already selected a location for a wellness pavilion, typically offering flu shots, diabetes testing and blood pressure measurements. This time around, mental health counselors will be on hand to help visitors deal with recent events and provide health resources.

Tsay will be honored by city officials and police for his bravery in disarming the shooter. A remembrance ceremony will also be held for the victims of the Monterey Park shooting.

“We can honor what should be honored – and we can have fun while respecting the reality of the world we live in,” Bwarie said.

Organizers of the Tet festival, the largest Lunar New Year gathering in North America, also wanted their show to continue.

The three-day celebration at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa kicked off Friday, after its marketing team covered Asian and traditional American bands with assurances of heightened security, metal detectors and bag checks.

“It’s amazing how our leaders in their twenties have stood up and promised they will do everything they can to protect the elderly and families who come out to celebrate,” said Catt Phan, executive assistant. of the Miss Vietnam Cultural and Academic Contest of Southern California. , a main attraction of the event. The festival which traditionally attracts more than 50,000 visitors is organized by the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California.

Phan, from Fountain Valley, said she’s been nervous for her safety since the Atlanta spa shooting in 2021 – but as a former pageant entrant in 2019, when she won Miss Congeniality, she couldn’t not stay away.

“I want to be respectful, while proclaiming my joy,” she added. For four months, Phan helped guide the current crop of applicants, working on speaking skills and learning cultural proverbs. Entering the competition is “the culmination of their journey”, she said. “There are few moments when we manage to declare ourselves and on our terms. It’s one of them and we’re going to make this celebration a celebration.

Los Angeles Times

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