BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 12, 2018—On February 10, 2018, the Summit Area YMCA and the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council hosted a Lunar New Year Festival that attracted hundreds of excited families and children to celebrate the year of the dog. Decked with red lanterns throughout the facility, the Berkeley Heights YMCA opened its doors to the community and welcomed all to join in the celebration of the cultural holiday. The festival provided the community with an opportunity to learn and experience the excitement and customs traditionally celebrated by the Chinese, Koreans and many other places in Asia. Various schools, organizations, and restaurants in East Hanover, Warren, as well as Berkeley Heights joined in the wonderful event that celebrated diversity and the Lunar New Year.
Upon entering the YMCA lobby, participants met face to face with a red and golden dragon at the entrance photobooth, backdropped by twinkling lights, lanterns and props for photos. Attendees signed in and received free raffle prize tickets as well as a red envelope with chocolate gold coins. As is customary in Chinese culture as well as some other Asian cultures, red envelopes are often given out by elders to children during the Lunar New Year. As participants made their way through the building, they were able to purchase authentic, delicious Thai food From local restaurants Proud Thai Cookery and Kawee Thai Cuisine, as well as play free games like Plinko and Spin the Wheel to win an assortment of Asian snacks, drinks and desserts from places like Thailand, Philippines, Korea, China, Taiwan, and more.
The event kicked off with an exciting Lion Dance as well as a short educational video about the Lunar New Year as a holiday celebrated by many places in Asia including China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and more.
Performances in the main gymnasium included: Lion Dance, Wingchun and Wushu performances by the Wushu KungFu Fitness Center of East Hanover, Chinese Song and Dance by the Spring Academy Montessori, Tae Kwon Do demonstration by Master Kim’s Talium Tae Kwon Do, Shaolin Kungfu & Tai Chi performances by students of the Shaolin Kungfu & Tai Chi school in Warren, as well as the rare Korean Folk Drum Dance performed by esteemed dancer Vong Pak.
Festival goers also enjoyed a variety of cultural activities including Chinese calligraphy, Zodiac face painting, Korean and Chinese arts and crafts, martial arts demos, Lunar New Year Storytime, fashion display, Korean bowing booth, Dragon Parade, prizes and more.
“It was nice to see the local community come together and have the opportunity to learn more about other cultures and to celebrate an important event in their calendar. I personally learned a number of things I was unaware of and I particularly enjoyed the Korean Drum performance and craft,” said Robert Garrard, festival attendee. “This was a great event that fits so well with the Y. It underpinned the latest commercial on TV that demonstrates the Y as a catalyst for inclusion for all with a wonderful environment.”
The Summit Area YMCA is a proud member of the Diversity, Inclusion and Global Innovation Network (DIG Innovation Network), a leading network within the YMCA’s efforts in outreach to diverse communities and encouraging community bridge-building. The Y is made up of people from all walks of life who are joined together by a shared commitment to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. The Y strives every day to serve our community with understanding, respect and appreciation for all dimensions of diversity.
“Since its inception almost 4 years ago - the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council’s purpose has been to embrace the rich diversity in Berkeley Heights and to make everyone feel welcome and valued,” said Karen Cassels Foote, member of the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council. “Our recent partnership with the Y has been invaluable. We share a similar vision and we have been able to offer events like Diwali and the Lunar New Year Festival on a larger scale, introduce new programs, and reach more people in the community. I am looking forward to seeing what else we can do together.”
As a charitable organization, the Y is focused on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Supporting families and the community in their efforts to spread cultural awareness and appreciation for diversity is core to the Y’s mission to help all people learn, grow, and thrive.
Previous cultural events included henna parties, international nights at the Berkeley Heights YMCA and The Learning Circle YMCA childcare centers, Holi Color Festival, Hispanic Heritage Day, Welcoming Week, Diwali Festival, and much more.
“The Lunar New Year Festival was meant to share many different cultural experiences, and to bring together the idea that anyone can celebrate the holiday and enjoy it in their own way, regardless of who you are or where you or your family comes from,” said Jenny Hui, a member of the event planning committee and Creative Services & Marketing Manager of the Summit Area YMCA. “It’s exactly what the Y mission is about and how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis to serve the community. Seeing all the smiling, happy faces at the festival told me that the event did what we set out to do—bring people together to have fun, and maybe learn a little bit of something new along the way. I hope that it encourages folks to engage in more welcoming and inclusive activities and practices in their daily lives.”
To learn more about the Diversity, Inclusion & Global Innovation Network, please visit www.theSAY.org/dig
To learn more about the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council, please visit https://www.facebook.com/Berkeley-Heights-Diversity-Council-1017690804943911/
For more fun upcoming events, visit www.theSAY.org/calendar
About the Summit Area YMCA
The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area’s leading 501(c)3 charitable organizations. Founded in 1886, the Summit Area YMCA has a history steeped in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income and background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Each year, we serve more than 10,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the communities of Berkeley Heights, New Providence, Millburn, Springfield, Short Hills, Summit, Gillette, and Stirling. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need. To strengthen your community and provide others with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive, make your tax-deductible donation today at www.theSAY.org/give.