Dances, food trucks and martial arts: Santa Clarita’s “Celebrate” series concluded its last installment of the year with a tribute to China on Friday at the Canyon Country Community Center. Residents showcased traditions, while others came to appreciate the beauty of Chinese culture.
There were many unique demonstrations, including performances from CHEER and Yaya Dance Academy, a lion and dragon dance, a cocktail garden by Santa Clarita Sister Cities —where drinks were curated to the names of the Chinese zodiac such as, “Year of the Rabbit”— and crafts such as Chinese calligraphy and mask assembling.
In addition, a currency exchange was held, where dollars could be exchanged for tickets; authentic items such as Chinese candy and fans were only available for purchase with the tickets obtained.
“Today we’re celebrating China. It’s such a beautifully rich culture with a lot of different elements to celebrate. We have a lot of community partners at this event as well. CHEER is here. They have traditional costumes that people can put on for our photo booth,” said Casey Miller, an event coordinator for the city. “We also have some traditional dances like the lion and dragon dance, where those dances are very visually impactful with the puppets that they dance through crowds with. It’s going to be really fun tonight, and it was a lot of fun to put together.”
Although the dances showcased by CHEER could allow one to mistake the organization as a performing arts institution, it is rather a nonprofit youth organization: The kids are not solely dancers, but are immersed in Chinese teachings and volunteer events for the good of the community.
Board members of CHEER reflected on the impact of the organization for the Chinese youth, which was first founded in the San Fernando Valley by Holly Wang in 2019. The Santa Clarita chapter opened in May 2022. Janice Jin, chapter vice president, discussed the various roles the organization plays.
“We have joined the city events multiple times. We participated in the city River Rally for a couple years, even before we created this branch,” Jin said. “We would bring our kids for renovation and cleaning up — CHEER SCV has been actively participating in city events [for years].”
The nonprofit welcomes children from elementary to high schools from nearly 30 local families, where there is a focus on the teachings of language and lineage.
“[We have] elementary school students, all the way to the high school students. The activities we have [include] community cleanups and peer-to-peer help. We did 16 camps, like science and art events,” Jin said. “We are also involved in multiple cultural events, such as a Lunar New Year performance [with other organizations].”
Wang further reflected on the idea of implementing Chinese culture consistently, regardless of the season or holiday.
“We have a summer and winter camp. We celebrate our traditional festivals, like the Chinese New Year festival,” Wang said. “Our kids show their talent to show our culture. I wish [that] different countries in the [world] can know our culture, so we get involved [here]. We also have a food drive.”
Miller stated that although this is the final “Celebrate” of the year, there will be a continuation in 2024.
“This is our last ‘Celebrate’ of this year, but we are looking for community input for what culture they’d like to see celebrated next year. The point of this event is to celebrate Santa Clarita diversity, and to do that, we need city or community input in order to represent our communities in the best way possible.”
Residents can find the questionnaire to submit a culture at santa-clarita.com/celebrate. The deadline is late October.