Monday, October 09, 2006

The following article appeared in the October 8, 2006 issue of the Hanford Sentinel.
Community keeps annual festival alive

By Eiji Yamashita
Sentinel Reporter

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HANFORD - One of the largest crowds in recent Moon Festival history crammed into a tiny stretch of historic China Alley on Saturday, as lion dancers and Taiko drummers breathed life back into the old Hanford Chinatown.

"It's very rewarding," said Camille Wing, a member of Toist Temple Preservation Society, which toils to put on the festival each year and restore China Alley, including the landmark 133-year-old temple structure.

During the last 27 years, the community has embraced the annual event, the fruit of the cultural heritage left by the Chinese immigrants from the 19th century. Saturday was no exception.

"That's something we're trying to do, and it's our purpose to save the old heritage, buildings and the history," Wing said.

For Wing and other members of the society, this year's festival has especially been an uplifting experience.

The event was not going to take place this year, if it wasn't for the last-minute sponsorship thrown in by a local family business.

In June, the society announced it was canceling the beloved annual Hanford tradition, which had taken place each year for 26 years, because of severe funding shortfall. But then came a help from Jim and Kathy Mackey who together own Mackey and Mackey Insurance in Hanford.

A day after they heard the news, the family agreed to underwrite the event.

"What it boils down to is, this community has been really good to Kathy and me," Jim Mackey said at the festival. "It's time to start giving back, and this is a great cause. I just love seeing the kids here. Just look at their eyes when they watch lion dancers. It's energizing."

For Kathy Mackey, China Alley has nostalgic value.

"When I was 4 or 5 years old, my parents took me to China Caf/. And when I got a little older, they actually took me to the Pagoda and the Dynasty ... I have a lot of fond memories here, so we just felt it's something we want to see continue."

Now, it seems the Taoist Temple Preservation Society has found a steady source of funding.

"They are in our budget now," Mackey said about the festival. "We're going to continue."

The festival, which features a lion dance and a Taiko drum performance, is the major fundraiser for the society. The group preserves the integrity of Hanford's Chinatown area and legacy of Chinese immigrants who settled in the community before anyone else.

The Moon Festival is a Chinese celebration held in mid-September to give thanks for the bounty of the earth. In Hanford, it is celebrated on the first Saturday of October as a way to introduce the community to the Chinese culture that has shaped the history of the town.

On Saturday, the festival was attended by by a large, diverse crowd of more than 200 visitors from Hanford and other areas.

Young and old alike took their time to stroll through the old temple and the museum and showed enthusiasm as they watched the cultural performances in the alley.

"I'd bet we won't see this kind of community support in some of the bigger cities. This really brings this town together," said Rod Andrus of Fresno, who was among the crowd to watch the lion dance. "Not many communities have their Chinatowns anymore. Somebody had the foresight to preserve it. We are very lucky that we still have what we can see here."

(The reporter may be reached by e-mail at:

(Oct. 8, 2006)


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