San Diego Lunar New Year Festival returns to City Heights for three-day, in-person celebration
Lunar New Year, which was officially recognized by California in 2019, is a holiday celebrated primarily by Asian countries. Typically held in late January or early February, the tradition marks the start of the spring season according to the lunar calendar.
In 2010, Little Saigon San Diego Foundation debuted San Diego Lunar New Year Festival as a four-hour event at Hoover High School’s parking lot. In addition to honoring Lunar New Year, the San Diego event aims to increase cultural awareness of the Vietnamese community as well as support local performers, artists and businesses.
The festival has grown substantially over the last decade and its location has bounced around the city, including six years at the now-shuttered San Diego County Credit Union Stadium in Mission Valley. Last year, the festival employed a hybrid approach due to COVID-19, which included socially-distanced performances outside of businesses and virtual viewing options.
For 2022, the festival returns to its regular format and original City Heights stomping grounds. However, event organizers note that it will be “smaller and cozier” than previous years, due to COVID-19 restrictions and space constraints of the park. And due to its new venue, the event will forgo its $5 admission fee and be free for all attendees.
There will be a stacked lineup of live entertainment during the three-day event, including a firecrackers show, lion and dragon dances, martial art performances, musical performances, and guest speakers. There will also be singers from Southern Vietnamese Folk Opera and Vietnamese Classic Opera, as well as local groups like UCSD Chinese Dance, San Diego Japanese Hula Club and Samahan Filipino American Performance Arts. (Note that the entertainment schedule is tentative and some performers are subject to change.)
Throughout the park, there will be tables with cultural activities aimed to be both fun and educational. These include picking a word of the day from a wishing tree and spinning a wheel to receive a Guanyin reading. Additionally, visitors can check out and take pictures at the Cultural Village, which is set up and decorated to resemble a traditional village of South East Asia.
Though 2022 has far fewer vendors than previous years, there will still be plenty of traditional Asian fare for sale — from Korean BBQ to Boba drinks. Many of the participants are mom and pop shops, including Saigon Sandwiches & Deli, which will be serving up Vietnamese street food. There will also be a Bizuri Ice Cream food truck, along with booths from E & Drink, Finest City Sweet Treats, Miister Potato, and more.
Free masks and hand sanitizer bottles will be available for attendees, along with large balloons — measuring five-feet long — that guests can hold to help with social distancing. There will also be a COVID-19 vaccination site hosted by San Diego County on Saturday.
While event organizers stressed the importance of returning to an in-person format, they said the festival will be in compliance with all county, state and nationalCOVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Attendance will be monitored, and if the event exceeds 5,000 people, additional safety measures will be implemented.
Lunar New Year Festival
When: 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. An opening ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Where: Officer Jeremy Henwood Park, 4455 Wightman St., City Heights
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