SF gears up for Chinese New Year parade

February 24, 2010 7:31:49 PM PST
The Chinese New Year parade is Saturday evening. Right now artists are scrambling to finish the intricate floats that will appear in the parade.

Artists are getting their masterpieces ready for the Chinese New Year parade.

"We buy by the semi-truck load. We probably bought six truckloads so far this year. We whittle it up very fast," master float builder Dave Thomas said.

Thomas once appeared as a performer in the parade, but floats intrigued him. He started with one and this year he is up to 24 of them. They are all based on Thomas' designs that the artists follow.

"The average float takes 200 man hours. Some of these have taken as much as 400 to 600 man hours," he said.

The floats are sponsored by corporations and most of them are banks. The Wells Fargo float even includes an iconic stagecoach.

"We have a tiger bank, which is a giant tiger bank, sitting on top of a gold coin," Derek Fong from Wells Fargo said.

But they won't be handing out free money.

The parade goes back to the 1860's when Chinese who lived in San Francisco wanted to celebrate their culture. It has grown to be the largest celebration of Asian culture outside of Asia.

About one million people are expected to line the parade route and 20 to 30 million more may see it as it is streamed to China.

"I know I talked to a real artist one time. I said I want to do real art and he was dumbfounded. he said 'Dave, your art is seen by more people in a month than will ever see mine in a lifetime,'" Thomas said.

This really is a monumental creative effort. These floats are shown one-time only in the parade on Saturday. Then the floats are dismantled and the Styrofoam is crushed and gone forever.