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Flushing ready to honor Year of the Monkey

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With color, cultural flair and international appeal, the Lunar New Year will ring in the Year of the Monkey in Flushing, two weeks after renditions of “Auld Lang Syne” are put to rest.

The Lunar New Year Parade in Flushing is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 17, beginning at 11 a.m. on Main Street to usher in n year 4702 on the Chinese calendar and 4337 on the Korean calendar.

Representatives from the Chinese and Korean communities met with other city officials last month to announce the date and ask the public for input in planning the parade. Cultural groups are now invited to apply to perform in the parade.

Parade planners hope for even more fanfare from this year’s parade — more fireworks, more involvement from the Korean community and more cultures represented.

“Last year was the first time we had firecrackers,” said Fred Fu, president of the Chinese American Business Association. “We want longer firecrackers next year.”

Mayor Rudy Giuliani banned fireworks from Lunar New Year celebrations in 1997, a year after the Flushing parade began. Mayor Michael Bloomberg reversed that order, making way for last year’s pyrotechnic display.

A representative from Bloomberg’s office said that the mayor is considering attending this year’s celebration.

The parade went from being exclusively Chinese to including more different ethnic groups in the late 1990s. From the year of the parade’s inception in 1995 until 1998, the parade was coined the “Chinese Lunar New Year Parade.” This changed to make the Koreans and other Asian populations feel more welcome.

Korean community leaders said their performers will represent the authenticity of their culture, while Chinese performers will do Kung Fu and the Koreans Karate.

There will also be dancing demonstrations, singing and cultural performances from groups interested in participating.

Parade planners said they are contacting the Indonesian population to see if they are also interested in being involved.

Last year the Chinese and Korean communities marched alongside visitors from the Bahamas, members of the Hindu Temple Society of North America and a Howard Beach group called the Black Cowboys.

But for one group, the Chinese Falun Gong practitioners becoming involved with the parade was a struggle.

There were weeks of contentious meetings last January to determine whether the Falun Gong practitioners could be part of the parade.

The group, a meditative spiritual movement banned in China, applied to perform in last year’s Lunar New Year celebration. Some parade organizers were opposed to the group’s inclusion on the basis that the Falun Gong practitioners are religious and therefore in violation of the parade’s code to not include political or religious performances.

In a last-minute decision, the Falun Gong were invited to march. Despite the controversy leading up to the parade, the Falun Gong performers did not face any opposition in the parade.

Fu said he will not know whether or not Falun Gong practitioners will be allowed to participate this year. Applications have just been made available for groups interested in becoming involved.

The route, which will be determined with the 109th Precinct, has not been established as of press time.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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