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COLUMN: Band performance highlights Chinese New Year (VIDEO)

Fresno Christian High School received an invitation to participate in the 13th annual Chinatown Revitalization Parade back in December. According to director Michael Ogdon, he didn’t even know there was such a thing. As it was, Ogdon let the invite sit on the “in-pile” for a couple weeks before asking junior drum major Eric Cowin his opinion of marching in another parade.

“Well, we only got to do two parades this year, so maybe it’s a good idea,” Cowin said. So, the campus band drove to Fresno’s historic downtown and marched in the 30-minute parade as the first high school band to do so in its history. The following is director Ogdon’s account of the event.

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[/media-credit] The Eagle band performed for the 13th annual Chinatown Revitalization Parade, March 2. They then continued to march and play for Shantytown spectators as well.
13th annual Chinatown Revitalization Parade

In much the same feel as the town of Biola’s “56th annual Raisin Day Parade,” Oct. 20, the small town attitude of this gathering was during Chinese New Year from the beginning.

With a start time slated for 12 noon, the band was plenty early in its caravan of parent’s vehicles, weaving around street blockades to the participant parking between the Mexican Baptist Church and a mortuary/crematorium., March 2. Fitting, too, in that this is the Chinese Year of the Snake.

With nearly two hours to wait prior to the parade’s step off time, the band of 8, drum line of 9 and flag team of six walked a block north to the local Rally’s drive through for a snack and shade. Oh, the advantages of having a small group!

Finally assembled and ready to go, the parade participants certainly were a varied crew. Two chinese dance troupes, John Cho’s Kung Fu School’s Lion Dancers (VIDEO) and the Chinese Consolated Benevolent Association’s Chinese Youth Group Dragon Dancers were the most appropriate ensembles to perform, followed by the Wong Family Benevolent Association. After that, a rather odd conglomerate of Scottish bagpipers, Oakland Raider fans, a Chaffee Zoo van, a pirate float and the Dusty Buns jeep. All came in the hope of revitalizing Chinatown.

Fresno’s Chinatown certainly is in need of rebuilding. There isn’t much of what used to be a thriving subculture within our Fresno City boundaries. Perhaps the parade will bring attention and support to this deserving community. — Junior Michael Fu

Honestly, there wasn’t an overwhelming crowd along the parade route, and only about 20 percent of those watching were Chinese. Fresno Chinatown‘s proximity to the homeless shanty town a few blocks south spiced up the audience with some rugged street people. A considerable police presence was seen on bikes and in cruisers. The fire academy contributed to the action sending a vintage truck along with it’s classic siren and horn adding to the Chinese drummers.

It must be said, though, that even if the crowd was not very deep, they made up for it with their obvious appreciation for each parade participant. Lots of video cameras caught the action. Plenty of still photos were taken, too.

And just as quick as the three block parade was marched, it was over. Sure, the band still had to march back to their parked cars, and they made the most of it with drum cadence and another rendering of their parade music, “Grand Entry Swing March,” by David Baskerville (1956).

A quick packing of the instruments brought the band, drum line and flag girls to a parade of their own making. Ogdon’s thought was to offer the band a service project to the homeless. Why not? Everybody was already dressed and ready to play!

There were not many who quite knew what to make of the uniformed ensemble as they took over the street just outside the Poverello House. A loud whistle from Cowin and the band was off to the drum line’s cadence, flag team supporting in unison from the back.

Half a block down and a quick right turn brought the Eagle Band to a street full of cardboard and plywood lean-to houses built on the sidewalks. The loudest support came from the women inside the protective gates of the Poverello House as the band came into the compound. A U-turn and back out to the cars and the parade was completed.

Fresno’s Chinatown certainly is in need of rebuilding. There isn’t much of what used to be a thriving subculture within our Fresno City boundaries. Perhaps the parade will bring attention and support to this deserving community.

But the rebuilding of the lives of the homeless is not to be ignored. Who more than these need the hope that a bit of band music might bring? The tragic life circumstances trapped inside the cardboard walls of the shanty cries out for the Hope that a Savior can bring, a hope that a band can play, a flag can wave to, and a drum can pound out.

For more opinions, read the Feb. 28 article, Disneyland brings relief to junior (VIDEO, PODCAST).

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