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Here's how you can celebrate the Lunar New Year in Kansas City

Nelson-Atkins Senior Manager of Community Programs Sarah Hyde Schmiedeler holds up the head of a lion costume, used in traditional Chinese Lion Dances. Early next week, the lion will be on display near the Bloch Plaza entrance of the Nelson-Atkins Museum as a part of their Lunar New Year Decorations.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Nelson-Atkins senior manager of community programs Sarah Hyde Schmiedeler holds up the head of a lion costume, used in traditional Chinese Lion Dances. Early next week, the lion will be on display near the Bloch Plaza entrance of the Nelson-Atkins Museum as a part of their Lunar New Year decorations.

Asian American community groups and businesses across Kansas City are welcoming in the Year of the Rabbit — or the Year of the Cat, depending on the country. No matter which animal you're celebrating, there's plenty to do for the Lunar New Year.

The Lunar New Year, which is widely celebrated in east and southeast Asian countries, is Sunday, Jan. 22. Festivities last about a week, and are typically jam-packed with traditional food, family gatherings, and colorful parades.

One such celebration is the Kansas City Chinese American Association (KCCAA) New Year Festival. The elaborate event — which usually sells out and draws more than 1,000 people — was held online during 2021 and 2022 during the pandemic.

But this year, the festival is back in person, and will take place at the Midwest Trust Center at Johnson County Community College on Saturday.

“A lot of people asking, ‘Hey, when are you guys gonna come on stage?’” says KCCAA chair Forest Rong. “You know, they're really looking for the in-person connection there.”

2023 is the Year of the Rabbit in Chinese culture, explains Rong, which represents hope and prosperity — the perfect aspirations coming out of a pandemic.

In Vietnam, though, 2023 is actually the Year of the Cat — although Vietnamese coffee shop Café Cà Phê says it will be celebrating both animals at their Saturday event.

Performers in a red dragon costume open its mouth and make it dance. The dragon looms large in the left side of the frame. Behind them is a crowd of people in front of Café Cà Phê.
Savannah Hawley-Bates
KCUR 89.3
A dragon dance troupe performed at the opening of Café Cà Phê in August 2022.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum is also returning to an in-person celebration for their annual Lunar New Year Festival.

Community Programs manager Sarah Hyde Schmiedeler says the festival has been a staple for the museum since the '90s, but the 2021 and 2022 events both went virtual because of COVID.

“It's just the smells of the food and the excitement and the energy of being together," Hyde Schmiedeler says. "And it's just an indescribable feeling, unless you've been to one of our cultural festivals at the Nelson Atkins, that's just an excitement and great to share that together.”

Looking for ways to connect with Kansas City's AAPI communities and join in on the fun? Here are some events happening in the region this week.

Saturday, Jan. 21

Kansas City Chinese American Association New Year Celebration, Midwest Trust Center at Johnson County Community College, 12:20 to 5 p.m.

Fortunately, the KCCAA Gala — which features a plethora of musical and dance performances — is back in person this year. Unfortunately, it's sold out. Not to fear though! Rong says a Chinese language competition will be open to spectators starting at 12:30. After the competition, at 3 p.m., a free cultural fair will feature a Chinese medicine booth, Bo Ling’s food for purchase, performances, and more.

Cafe Ca Phe’s Lunar New Year, MADE MOBB, 221 Southwest Blvd, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vietnamese coffee shop Café Cà Phê is bringing back their Lunar New Year festival. The free celebration will feature dragon dancing, exclusive merch, music, food, and autographs by KC Current players.

Sunday, Jan. 22

Lenexa Lunar New Year Celebration, Lenexa Public Market, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For the first time, Lenexa Public Market will be celebrating the Lunar New Year in collaboration with the Ethnic Enrichment Commission of Kansas City. Several merchants will be selling New Year specials, like gimbap from pop-up restaurant Kimchi and Bap, or mochi donuts and Thai tea lattes from Mr. D’s Coffee. The market will also feature various dance performances, crafts, activities, like a Tai Chi demonstration.

Lunar New Year Flash Event, Tintoretta Tattoo Studio, 1427 W. 9th Street, 12 to 8 p.m.

Locally owned tattoo shop Tintoretta is hosting a pop-up event with “flash” tattoos. The tattoo designs will feature Chinese and Vietnamese zodiac animals. Several other small businesses, like the Korean restaurant Chingu, will be there too, offering food, artwork, and other goods.

Friday, Jan. 27

University of Kansas Lunar New Year Celebration, Ecumenical Campus Ministries, 1204 Oread Avenue, Lawrence, Kansas, 6 to 8 p.m.

While it's a little bit out of Kansas City, the KU Center for East Asian Studies is hosting a Lunar New Year festival just down the road in Lawrence. Come for the Asian food and games, and stay for the performance from KU's very own Lion Dance Team.

Sunday, Jan. 29

2023 Lunar New Year Festival: Year of the Rabbit, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The free Nelson-Atkins Lunar New Year Festival will be in full swing this year. The day is loaded with dance and musical performances, calligraphy and origami lessons, food, and more. Visitors can also view the various Lunar New Year decorations and go on a zodiac animal scavenger hunt in the galleries.

Did we miss any Lunar New Year events? Be sure to let us know at news@kcur.org.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.
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