Several thousand people welcomed the arrival of the Year of the Snake on Saturday with a raucous cross-cultural celebration at the Tacoma Dome.
The lunar calendar is recognized in cultures throughout much of East Asia, including China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Korea.
Saturdays celebration in Tacoma also incorporated the Pacific Islands with a kaleidoscopic array of costumes, dance and cultural demonstrations ranging from traditional Chinese dragon dances and Filipino martial arts to a steamy fitness fusion called Hot Hula.
The free festival was the 15th annual New Year celebration organized by the Asia Pacific Cultural Center, a Tacoma-based organization dedicated to bridging cultures throughout Asia and the Pacific.
This years entertainment spotlight focused on Taiwan, with an hour-long noontime presentation of folk and aboriginal dance and music.
But the stage in the Exhibition Hall was busy all day long, with other entertainers representing the Philippines, Hawaii, Samoa, China, Japan, Tahiti, India, Tonga, Fiji, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Guam and New Zealand.
For 16-year-old Anna Neshyba of Tacoma, the New Year celebration was a chance to demonstrate her skill at the centuries old Japanese martial art of Kendo. Barefoot and wrapped in traditional black fighting garb and face mask, Neshyba wielded a wooden staff resembling a broken-off pool cue in a fearsome display of dance and self-defense.
Each of her attacks on a similarly protected opponent was accompanied by a hair-raising primal scream.
For me the attraction is to have a connection with something thats so much older than I am, Neshyba said. And its a great stress reliever.
Tepora Salanoa and Roe Harper, Hot Hula fitness instructors at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center, combined ancient and modern by fusing aerobics and traditional Pacific Island dance.
Hot hula has been great, said Salanoa, who lives in Puyallup. It gets us healthy and active and also brings us back to our own culture. Its also a good weight loss program, Salanoa said, noting that shes 70 pounds lighter than when she started the program.
Lua Pritchard, executive director of the Cultural Center, said Asian cultures have slightly different dates and ways of celebrating the New Year, but they all have one thing in common: Its wishing well to everyone and good luck for us to celebrate, she said.