When It Rains on the Parade

The Lunar New Year Parade in Flushing, Queens kicked off the Year of the Rat with firecrackers, floats, flags, and rain. Lots of it.

The damp, cold weather, however, pushed many attendees into local establishments along the parade route.  Many even sought refuge at the Queens Public Library, one of the largest public libraries in the United States.

“My grandmother is on the other side,” Win Lin said and pointed towards a cluster of umbrellas across the street. “But I am hiding here. I want to keep warm.”

Several people along the parade route wore anti-viral masks, and in the children’s section, some mothers helped kids put them on.  While many new years celebrations around the world were cancelled due to fears of the spreading coronavirus, the celebration in Flushing drew thousands.

People crowded around large windows in the local library on Main St. to watch the parade, but there was plenty to see inside as well. The library hosted the Lunar New Year Celebration Concert with CBA Culture and Arts Center, a Chinese musical performing group.

“It’s the first year we have seen rain, so people are in here,” Damini Patel, adult services manager at the library, said. “People come here for the programming. We have programs for every occasion, every culture, we celebrate.”

The library also celebrates the New Year by sending 40 of its employees to march in the parade each year, along with its mobile library.

“I’ve done this for three years, and it’s always a lot of fun,” said Yves Etheart, the library’s social media manager. “It went a little quicker because of the rain but people are still excited to march, and people are still excited to be here. They are still standing out there.”

Xing Fu Tang, a bubble tea shop, also drew crowds during the storm. The shop doesn’t officially launch until Feb. 2, but its owners decided to open its doors for the holiday. The line went out the door.

“It’s the happiest time of the year, and people wanted to come in,“ Jessica Chuang, the marketing agent for the shop, said. “We are happy to share in the happiness.”

The shop, Xing Fu Tang, which means happiness and sugar, also has a traditional Taiwanese fortune telling cabinet, which predicts your luck for the year. To receive a fortune, customers select a red stick from the bin below the cabinet. The sticks are numbered and correspond to a drawer in the cabinet. Each drawer contains a slip of paper with a fortune.

Another tradition thought to bring luck and to ward away misfortune is lighting firecrackers on New Years. Due to the rain, the firecracker display, which was only supposed to last five minutes, lasted longer but was cut short before it could be completed. Each grouping of firecrackers had to be lit individually with road flares.

“Rain caused tons of problems.” James Laver Jr., a pyrotechnician, said. “I could not get the fire panel lit. In New York City, you aren’t allowed to use road flares. I’m surprised they let me do it. Once everything is wet, it can get compacted and become like a bomb because it is sealed. Everything was too wet.”

Some visitors didn’t seem intimidated by the rain, though, Jamie Gonzales and his family visited a Buddhist Temple nearby to stay dry, but they returned for the firecrackers. “The rain didn’t bother us,” he said.