The Golden Dragon Parade - A Los Angeles Tradition
Over one hundred years ago, the Chinese community began to participate in the parade of the City of Los Angeles. In 1898, the Chinese lion and dragon procession were regarded as one of the most beautiful unit in the City’s Annual La Fiesta Parade. With this initial participation in the parade, the Chinese community was applauded for its contribution to the celebration. The Fiesta committee immediately requested that the Chinese community permanently join in this annual event. During these early years, the Chinese Merchants Association organized and sponsored the lion dance procession, in addition to one or two parade floats. At one point the organization also arranged for the use of a dragon from the Chinese community in Marysville, California. Eventually, they raised $1,500 to acquire a dragon that required 25 men to maneuver. Their units were always considered the main attraction of the Fiesta Parade and had always drawn a very enthusiastic and excited crowd.
In 1956, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles (formerly Chinatown Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles) joined in the celebration. New dragonheads were imported from Hong Kong and local family association members were hired to perform the cultural dances. In the early 1960’s, the lion and dragon dancers would visit every Chinese business along the parade route. Financial support for the parade included fundraising dinners and door-to-door solicitations to gather support from the Chinatown business community.
After the Vietnam War in 1975, Indo-Chinese refugees poured into the United States and soon became active in our community. Local family associations, Buddhist temples, and community-based organizations mushroomed and the parade became a focal point for community participation.
In the 1970’s, actor and martial arts master Bruce Lee was the Grand Marshal of our parade. Since then other Grand Marshall’s have included David Carradine and Keye Luke from the television series “Kung Fu”, Hugh Hefner of Playboy Magazine, Lindsay Wagner from “Bionic Woman”, Dr. Haing S. Ngor from the motion picture “The Killing Fields”, Kieu Chinh from “Joy Luck Club”, and Garrett Wang from television’s “Star Trek Voyagers”. Over the years, many other celebrities have also participated in our Golden Dragon Parade.
The parade originally took place on Friday nights but was changed to Saturday afternoons to allow for greater community participation. We now draw over 110,000 anxious spectators each year along North Broadway in Los Angeles’ Chinatown!
Without a doubt, the Golden Dragon Parade is the highlight of the Chinese New Year in Southern California.