The Chinese American Community Center’s festival returns this weekend, but moves out of the building to sell traditional food, offer tea tastings and provide demonstrations.
“We still have all the elements,” said Naxin Cai, chairman of the center. “We just moved them outside.”
The center had been forced to cancel last year’s event because of the COVID-19 lockdown. Most of the Chinese Festival’s pre-pandemic events took place inside. This year’s version will take place in tents, booths and in the parking lot. Instead of a three-day affair, it will be limited to Saturday and Sunday.
New this year will be tea tastings and ping pong and yo-yo demonstrations. The ping pong demonstrators will show off tricks in matches, as well as play members of the audience brave enough to volunteer (We’re looking at you, former Gov. and table tennis champ Jack Markell). The yo-yo demonstrators also will show off tricks, while over at the children’s booth, they’ll teach kids how to handle a yoyo.
The tea booth will offer tastings of different Chinese teas. The festival always highlights a part of Chinese culture and this year will exhibit a collection of traditional tea pots and utensils.
One booth will focus on children’s activities, including making origami animals from paper, allowing kids to try Chinese calligraphy and teaching yo-yo.
The festival will also have its first outdoor movie. On Saturday night, patrons are invited to bring chairs and watch “Ne Zha,” an animated film that tells the story of a child who is born with a curse on him. It was the first Chinese film to be created for Imax theaters.
Festival admission has always been free, but this year parking will be, too. Because the parking lot will be used for events, patrons may park in a field next to the center, said Cai.
About 4,000 people have attended previous festivals over those three-days weekends, he said.
Organizers are unsure what to expect this year, he said. The planners went ahead because the pandemic appeared to be easing, but now cases are rising again, he pointed out.
In addition to the dances, ping-pong and yo-yo demonstrations, the festival will continue its karaoke area, which was started a few years ago. The center invested in microphone covers that can be changed after each use.
The festival runs Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at 1313 Little Baltimore Road in Hockessin.
It requires about 300 volunteers. Most will serve outside this year, with only kitchen staff and financial people inside.
Cai said the kitchen staff may not cook as much as it normally does, but will include the Chinese version of popcorn chicken ($6) and a popcorn chicken platter with rice, vegetables and a spring roll ($10).
“It’s very popular every year,” Cai said.
So is the festival’s bubble tea, he said.
New this year will be lamb skewers (2 for $5).
Other favorites include stir-fried vegetables ($5); spiced pork over rice ($6); spiced pork over rice with egg ($7); spiced pork combo ($10); vegetable bun ($2); pork and vegetable bun ($2); BBQ pork bun ($2); red bean paste bun ($2); pork and scallion bun ($2); spring roll (2 for $3); scallion pancakes (4 for $3); chicken skewers (2 for $5); Taiwanese grilled sausage ($2); mango slush ($4); watermelon ($2); beer, Tsingtao and others, $4; soda and water, $1.
As of Wednesday, the Saturday entertainment schedule included: 11:30 a.m., dragon/line dance; 1 p.m. ping-pong match; 1:30 p.m., yo-yo; 2:30 p.m., dragon/lion dance; 3 p.m., ping-pong; 4 p.m., folk dance troupe; 5 p.m., flash mob dance, with leaders inviting the public to join; 5:30 p.m., ping-pong match. The movie starts at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Sunday’s entertainment schedule starts at 12:30 p.m. with the dragon/line dance; 1:30 p.m. yo-yo-demonstration; 2 p.m., ping-pong match; 3 p.m., folk dance troupe; 4 p.m., flash mob dance, with leaders inviting the public to join; 4:30 p.m., ping-pong match.
The festival returns as the community center is involved with efforts to get Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington, to resign after he was caught using a racist slur about women of Asian descent.
The community center and Delaware Chinese American Association and Chinese American Community Center on Monday called for his resignation in an email sent to Gov. John Carney and members of the General Assembly.
Brady had sent a message from his state email June 27 in response to a plea from an out-of-state advocate to consider decriminalizing prostitution that references “chink broads.” He accidentally sent it to the advocate.
The Chinese American groups said Brady’s remarks were not “slip-of-tongue,” and that they “reflect his deep-rooted racist and misogynistic views about Chinese Americans and Chinese American women.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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