Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Bok Kai Parade

Last weekend, Susan and I went to the Marysville Bok Kai Parade, an annual tradition dating back to at least 1880, and probably to the 1850s; it is considered California's oldest annual parade. The tradition was established by the residents of the local Chinatown, and although the Chinatown pretty much ceased to exist when mobs of white residents drove all the Chinese people out of the city in February 1886 (the same time that similar mobs were driving Chinese people out of other cities throughout much of California), somehow the parade itself continued. A few old Chinese buildings also remain, and some Chinese people from Sacramento and other cities come to town for the day of the parade, but Marysville's year-round population of Chinese descent is almost nonexistent. (A friend I went to high school with believes that her grandparents, who are Chinese and live in Marysville, are Marysville's only Chinese residents.)

This year was the second time that Susan and I attended the parade. The first time we attended was in 2009, when we were enthralled by the bizarre historical inaccuracies of floats that showed Donner Party survivors accompanied by Chinese coolies. (Marysville is named after a Donner Party survivor, Mary Murphy Covillaud, whose husband owned most of the town at one point.) We skipped last year's parade, because we were afraid it couldn't possibly live up to the bizarreness of the previous one. This year, we worked up the courage to go again.

Parade day is the only day of the year when it's difficult to find a parking spot in this small town. Probably half the actual residents of Marysville live within easy walking distance of the parade route and don't need any parking, but enough people come from other cities that all the parking spaces fill right up. It was odd to see even the spaces under this bridge all transformed into parking spots.

These posters for the parade had been posted all over town for weeks.

We arrived a little late and didn't see the very start of the parade. This was the first group we saw.

Next came a high school band from another small town just south of here. I'm not bothering to post pictures of most of the high school bands (there were plenty!) but this one was more interesting than most, because all their instruments consisted of garbage cans and plastic buckets.

Like most parades, this one had its share of Shriners in funny hats.

Along a side street, there was a booth raising money to support the Bok Kai temple, a Taoist temple that is one of the few old Chinese buildings left in town.

And there were booths selling every imaginable type of snack food.

We took a shortcut across the parade route to see some of the earlier groups we had missed, and we caught up with some trucks full of Chinese musicians.

We watched a lion dancer climb this pole and unfurl the sign saying, "Happy Lunar New Year of the Rabbit" in front of the judging stand.

Here is the judging stand.

Some of the Shriners wore clown outfits. I'm posting these pictures for the sole purpose of re-traumatizing Susan, who is afraid of clowns.

Because this is the Year of the Rabbit, many floats and other displays in the parade incorporated rabbits, including some rabbits that were obviously meant for Easter.

E Clampus Vitus is a Gold Rush-themed drinking club with chapters throughout California. The E Clampus Vitus contingent in the parade screeched to a halt when the parade reached the Silver Dollar Saloon. All the E Clampus Vitus people parked and went inside to drink, while the rest of the parade behind them continued marching.

I have no idea what group, if any, this guy was representing.

This rather frightening gold zombie bunny was representing AmeriCorps.

The Future Farmers of America were raising money for Relay for Life (the American Cancer Society).

Bugs Bunny showed up on a motorized toilet.

The official Yuba County Sherrif's Posse showed up.

As did the Search and Rescue dogs, some of which were rescuing rabbits.

Others were being rabbits.

The local Walgreens showed up with a sort of impressionist rabbit.

And Sutter North Hospice showed up with Chinese coolie hats, Chinese lanterns, a whole bunch of inexplicable ferns . . .

A separate Bugs Bunny of their own in the back of the truck (wearing a Chinese coolie hat) . . .

. . . And a guy following along behind to pound on the gong.

The staff of a place called Mom's Diner brought Elvis Presley with them. Elvis brought a rabbit on his shoulder.

The sheriff brought a helicopter-shaped vehicle.

Various groups brought go-carts of various sorts.

A bunch of people brought very old cars, most of which I will spare you the photos of.

The firefighters did the work of horses and pulled their antique fire engine all around town by themselves.

The road sign maintenance crew showed up in an old car that had to be towed.

The Sacred City Derby girls came up from Sacramento, but I'm sure they didn't roller-skate the whole 50+ miles.

And then it was time for the firecrackers. We had been sitting for a while in front of the Silver Dollar Saloon, but we were asked to move when a string of firecrackers was hung in front of it. You can see the string of firecrackers here, behind the head of the lion dancer.

After the firecrackers came the dragon, whose name is Hong Wan Lung. The dragon is always carried by soldiers from the nearby air force base. They all had purple shirts and black pants. The purple shirts say "Dragon Dancer Athlete" in Chinese and English.

The dragon is always at the very end of the parade. You can see in these pictures the remains of the big string of firecrackers all over the sidewalk in front of the saloon. Additional firecrackers were set off in the middle of the street all along the parade route, especially near the dragon, but also some at earlier points in the parade.

The street sweeper followed closely behind the dragon.

After the parade ended, Susan and I toured the Chinese American Museum of Northern California and the Yuba County Library Archives, both of which are rarely open to the general public but made a special exception for parade day. However, neither allowed photographs.
Tags: photographs
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