SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Close to 40,000 people attended the first day of the annual Autumn Moon Festival in San Francisco's Chinatown.
"It feels good. I grew up here. It's like my roots. It's important to connect with where you came from, (and) not forget," said William Peasant, who lives in Oakland. He came out with several friends.
The Moon Festival dates back over 3,000 years. It is held to give thanks to the moon for a bountiful harvest. Many consider it to be the second most important festival of the Chinese lunar calendar. And it's a big draw for Chinatown.
"The streets haven't been this busy for a while, so it is nice to see," said Victoria Chen, who also attended the event.
The streets were filled with vendors, music and the popular mooncakes, which commemorate the event.
Crystal Lee, the reigning Miss Chinatown USA, greeted people and posed for pictures with attendees. She says this year's celebration isn't just about ancient traditions. It's also about modern-day economics.
"It is so great to come back and to have this Moon Festival. It is really important to bring in all these tourists, and to let people know that San Francisco's Chinatown is still alive. We are still here," Lee said. "It is so great to have these people come in and support the small businesses."
Small businesses like the Chinatown Kite Shop, which was devasted by the pandemic.
"It was like a dream world the last two years. Whole streets are deserted. It is kind of scary," said Albert Chang, the owner of the kite shop.
Chang opened Chinatown Kite Shop in 1972. He says this weekend's festival is an important step in getting back to black. Not just for Chinatown, but San Francisco as well.
The day-long event came to a close on Saturday with the fire dragon dance. Performers light incense sticks and parade the dragon through the streets of Chinatown.
"For the last two years, we have been very hard hit in our community, as you know. So this is about casting away the bad juju that we have been experiencing and also (about) a renewed energy," said Jenny Chan, Assistant Director Autumn Moon Festival.
"In ancient context, the emperor would wish for a bountiful harvest. We are kind of wishing for a bountiful years for our neighborhood and also for better days to come," she said.
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