SAN FRANCISCO -- Every year, San Francisco hosts the largest Chinese New Year parade in the country. It's a parade that draws half-a-million spectators each year...and it couldn't happen without Tony Lau.
He has been the celebration's float manager with the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce for 26 years and counting.
"This is an opportunity to really meet the community, help the community," said Lau. "And I want to keep that tradition."
This year, the parade will display 21 intricate floats. Each handcrafted design is constructed and decorated inside a colorful warehouse on Pier 54 in San Francisco.
Tony and his team of designers work tirelessly alongside Stephanie Mufson, the owner and director of The Parade Guys.
"I've been involved with the Chinese New Year parade for 15 years, and I've been running the build since 2014," explained Mufson. "I love the community, I love anything that involves celebration in a public space."
Mufson continued, "I love that people get to come together in a really meaningful way and bring beauty, joy, light."
When the pandemic hit, the festivities were put on hold. Tony and his team found a creative way to bring the parade to the community through "Zodiac on Parade."
"We have different artists coming in and creating different statues," expressed Lau. "We put them around the whole entire city of San Francisco and SFO, so that people can still enjoy celebrating Chinese New Year."
The installation encouraged the community to connect with Chinese New Year traditions and create new memories by snapping pictures in front of the art sculptures.
Tony strives to strengthen the community in additional ways, like through his annual free Thanksgiving luncheon.
Through his restaurant, K-Elements BBQ, Tony has fed communities in need for about seven years. Last year, the luncheon served 400 people.
It's his unwavering dedication to the community that fuels Tony to serve others and spread joy along the way.
Tony hopes to achieve exactly that with this year's Chinese New Year parade. He believes the parade is a chance to educate the world about Chinese heritage through celebration.
"This parade connects everyone together, not just our Asian community, but all different ethnicities," said Lau. "A lot of people are coming in from different countries, different states. They see the parade, they want to understand more about our culture."
As soon as the 2024 Year of the Dragon parade is over, it's time to start planning for 2025.
"Are you going to be doing this for the rest of your life?" asked ABC7 Journalist Dion Lim.
"Of course, that's my retirement plan," Lau said with a laugh. "I would love it."
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