San Francisco businesses take big hit due to cancelation of Chinese New Year Parade

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Young children setting off firecrackers in San Francisco's Chinatown on Saturday night, is nothing compared to the massive firecrackers that light up San Francisco during the annual Chinese new year parade.

"We miss it this year, but we hope everybody is able to do what they need to do to be health and we can look forward to being back marching next year," say Peter Kelly.

Peter Kelly's young son, Liam, marches every year. But this year, there is no parade due to COVID-19.

"We are the largest Chinese celebration of the Chinese New Year outside of Asia," says Harlan Wong, the director of the parade and two-week festival that precedes it. "It was an extremely difficult decision to cancel."

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And the impact on Chinatown can't be ignored.

"30% of the annual income (for many Chinatown businesses) is generated in this two-week time," explains Wong.

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose district includes Chinatown, says each year, the parade draws hundreds of thousands tourists to the city, generating millions of dollars in revenue.

"The economic impacts of the Chinese New Year Parade are much bigger than Chinatown. This a parade that fills up all of our hotels, from the Hilton to the Hyatt," says Peskin. This year, many of the hotels are vacant.

There was a virtual event streamed online. And 11 oxen statues have been spread throughout the city to commemorate the lunar new year.

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"It's crucial to past down our heritage and our connection with our community," says Jennifer Lew, who came out to Chinatown with her husband, Elden, and their two young children.

The Lews both grew up in Chinatown, but now live in Novato. Even though there is no parade, this year is may be more important to lend their support in light of the increased attacks against the Asian community and the businesses punished by the pandemic.

"Just seeing all these businesses being shut down. Since I have been a little kid, I have always known the bazaars to be open here. And it's just really desolate here now, it's kind of a ghost town, to be honest," says Eldin. "(It) tugs at the heart."

Wong says the Year of the Ox represent fortitude and hard work, and hopes those principles will be a guiding forces through 2021.

"And for this year, one more very important line: Good health to everyone!" says Wong.

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