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Ringing in Year of the Horse at local Chinese group's festival

  • Derek Baldi, 10, front, carries the pearl being chased by a dragon, beginning the Redwood Empire Chinese Association New Year Celebration at the Veterans Building in Santa Rosa, Calif., on February 15, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

About 500 people gathered Saturday night to usher in the Year of the Horse at a Chinese New Year celebration at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa.

Chinese lanterns dangled from the ceiling above attendees enjoying a catered buffet-style dinner from San Francisco Chinatown eatery Gourmet Delight, as well as beer a from Petaluma brewery Lagunitas and wine from several local wineries.

A full program of entertainment included piano and choir performances, dancers, martial arts demonstrations and a 250-foot-long Chinese dragon.

Chinese New Year Celebration

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Kate Toohey of Sebastopol attended the event for the second year in a row with her grandsons. Toohey's daughter-in-law, Jen Toohey, is half-Chinese.

"It's great to learn about the culture, and the boys love the dragons," Kate Toohey said.

Posters depicting the significance of each zodiac year decorated the walls of the center, and children crowded around one corner table to learn how to make origami animals.

The celebration serves as the yearly fundraiser for the Redwood Empire Chinese Association, which serves more than 200 families in Sonoma County. The RECA, which began in 1988, offers scholarship programs, language classes and Tai Chi lessons, along with many other cultural offerings.

Proceeds from the RECA fundraiser go toward both the scholarship program and a fund for a planned Asian cultural center.

"We were able to provide seven scholarships to local students last year," said Nancy Wang, the RECA's president for the past 10 years.

The Chinese New Year, based on the lunar calendar, began Jan. 31, but celebrations in China typically span several weeks following the date, said former Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Carl Wong.


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