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Lunar New Year Celebration Delights Smaller Crowds In Chinatown Despite Coronavirus Fears

Sunday's parade brought about 18,000 people to Chinatown, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Revelers gathered for the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown Sunday.
Carolyn Chen/Block Club Chicago
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CHINATOWN – Crowds were enthusiastic for the annual Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown on Sunday, though Coronavirus fears may have contributed to decreased attendance.

Chinese Lunar New Year parade officials estimate about 18,000 people attended the parade Sunday, which brought Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Wentworth Avenue along with parade floats and marching bands.

Typically, the event draws at least 20,000, officials said.

Ahead of the parade, Chinatown businesses reported a slowdown in foot traffic — but a spike in face mask sales — as concerns about the virus spread. While just two cases have been reported in Chicago, more than 17,000 cases of the virus have been reported worldwide, resulting in 360 deaths.

Credit: Carolyn Chen/Block Club Chicago
Elected officials gathered at the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown Sunday.

On Sunday, Lightfoot said that there was no reason for people to wear masks at the news conference ahead of the parade, and public health officials said the risk to Chicagoans remains very low.

“As you can see, I’m not wearing a mask, and I won’t be because I don’t think it’s necessary,” Lightfoot said.

Among the crowd, people were seen wearing masks, but others just took in music, bright colors and excitement the Lunar New Year brings.

Credit: Carolyn Chen/Block Club Chicago
Revelers gather for the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown Sunday.

Shifa Zhong, who marched in the parade while wearing a mask, said, “I am not too worried, but it is better to be safe than sorry.”

Besides traditional celebration elements of the Chinese New Year, like lion dances and drums, some marching in the parade showed the Chinese community’s solidarity by shouting, “Wuhan, be strong.”

Many businesses in Chinatown said business was slow in the days leading up to the parade, but on Sunday shops were packed with people.

Credit: Carolyn Chen/Block Club Chicago
Credit: Carolyn Chen/Block Club Chicago
Revelers gather for the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown Sunday.
Credit: Carolyn Chen/Block Club Chicago
Revelers gather for the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown Sunday.
Credit: Carolyn Chen/Block Club Chicago
Revelers gather for the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown Sunday.