Marysville's Bok Kai Festival and Parade highlights Chinese history
The Bok Kai Festival and Parade in Marysville has been celebrated for 142 years. It’s the oldest continuous parade in California and honors Bok Eye — the Chinese God of Water — who many believe protects the city from flooding.
Despite a gloomy forecast, thousands made time to attend this year’s event, which took place on March 5. The artistry was on display by early Saturday morning, as participants prepped for the day's festivities and crowds made their way to First and C streets.
The festival and parade have roots dating back to the 1880s. According to the official website of the Bok Kai Temple, the parade originated when Chinese immigrants made their way to California for opportunities at a better life and to work on railroads and in gold mines.
For attendee and event volunteer Deyanna Mendoza, the event has been a learning experience. She said she especially loved the costumes and temple.
“There’s a lot of history there,” she said. “Also, there’s this little museum right here, a lot of political history, some of the reasons how and why the Chinese came here initially. It’s a lot to learn. And it's kind of giving me a different scope of what I’ve already known and it's kind of reshaping that now.”
The festival is a tradition that welcomes members of all cultures and backgrounds to come out and celebrate.
This year, it returned after adjusting its traditions and modifying the parade due to COVID-19 protocols the previous year.
The deep tone of a gong kicked off the parade and was followed by community floats and performances. The procession ended with a 175-foot colorful dragon making its way to the temple.
This year’s event was extra special for Derrick Shiu of the West Coast Lion Dance Troupe. It was his first time performing at the festival and he said he was feeding off of the crowd’s energy.
“Seeing all the people, that’s always the best part,” he said. “How excited they get just to see everything going on.”
The annual parade has endured world wars, bad weather, and now a global pandemic. With more than a century under its belt, the event continues to be a place to share and learn about Chinese culture in the Maysville community.