SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ ­– Chinese New Year 2017 was celebrated in South Plainfield last weekend with a free, family-friendly event that was attended by a standing-room-only crowd.

“One of the things that makes South Plainfield very special is that we have a lot of cultural diversity and we like to celebrate that,” said Mayor Matt Anesh, addressing the crowd of more than 350 people gathered at the South Plainfield Senior Center on Feb. 3 for the Year of the Rooster celebration. “I want to thank all of the South Plainfield organizations who helped make the Chinese New Year Celebration a success…” 

Sponsored by the South Plainfield Public Library and South Plainfield Cultural Arts Commission, in conjunction with the borough-based Buddha's Light International Association - New Jersey Chapter (BLIA-NJ), the event featured live entertainment, activities and crafts as well as raffles and educational information for the whole family.

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“Our goal of the Chinese New Year Celebration was to provide others with a look into the Chinese culture,” said Yiwen Chiang, vice president of BLIA-NJ. “We have many different types of dance and music and feel, through culture and arts such as our different dances and music, people from different backgrounds can appreciate the heritage and sometimes even the religions of others.”

Andy Young, president of BLIA-NJ, added, “We wanted to hold an event not just for adults, but for kids and families, and to get the community together. We couldn't be happier with the turnout. So many families and kids came to the event and we are so very happy about that.”

Last weekend’s Year of the Rooster celebration kicked off with a cultural Lion Dance followed by a Flag Dance, with both performed by students from the Edison Chinese School. Throughout the day, there were also Chinese folk dances, a string ensemble performance, and a Guzheng performance along with solo dance performances and a powerful performance by a Chinese Opera singer who took over two hours to apply makeup and get into costume.

The celebration also featured a relaxation exercise demonstration that got attendees – including the mayor, councilmembers and residents of all ages – up and moving, as well as special free-style Chinese paper cutting demonstration by a Master Houtiem Cheng, whose artwork will be on exhibit at the library through the end of February.

Throughout the day, attendees also had the opportunity to stop by one of the many booths featuring artistic demonstrations and activities. Bookmarks with one’s name written in Chinese calligraphy were handed out as were brush painted fans and tapestries. Master Cheng met individual requests, bringing cats, dragons and tigers to life in the form of hats made from paper plates as well as created individual personalized side profiles.

Additionally, there were numerous DIY craft booths for adults and children set up throughout the day, providing those in attendance the opportunity to create their own lanterns, bracelets, and woodblock prints with materials provided by both the library and the BLIA.

“This was a wonderful event that allowed our residents to experience many of the celebratory traditions of the Chinese New Year, as well as featured professional performances from local Chinese schools and artists,” said Councilwoman Christine Faustini, a former trustee of the South Plainfield Public Library and member of the Cultural Arts Commission who worked with representatives from BLIA-NJ, the library and the borough to coordinate the event. “So many people and departments within the South Plainfield community pitched in, providing assistance, sponsorship and/or use of supplies so that this event could come together so successfully. Thanks goes out to the many, many people and organizations, including the South Plainfield Library, schools, senior center, DPW and the Cultural Arts Commission, for all of all their support and assistance.”

According to Linda Hansen, director of the South Plainfield Public Library, the borough’s Chinese New Year Celebration was one of the most well attended events the library has ever co-sponsored. “It was an honor to co-sponsor this event along with the South Plainfield Cultural Arts Commission and BLIA-NJ,” said Hansen. “The entertainment, demonstrations and information throughout the day provided residents of South Plainfield with an up-close-and-personal look into the Chinese culture.”

Young told TAPinto South Plainfield that he is extremely thankful for all the support BLIA-NJ has received from the borough over the past few years, noting that his goal is for the association to remain active in the community. “Mayor Matt and Councilman Derryck really support us and we have a great relationship,” Young said. “We plan to do more in the community moving forward.”

“We wish to extend many thanks to the borough, the library, cultural arts, the senior center and our dear friends and neighbors of South Plainfield,” said Chiang. “We were so happy to celebrate Chinese New Year with everybody and hope everyone had a good time and now has more knowledge of Chinese culture, including our New Year and how we celebrate.”

Suzanne Lepore, chair of the South Plainfield Cultural Arts Commission, said, "I was very pleased with the turn out on Saturday. I think we have the making of a great annual tradition in town."

Faustini agreed. “Attendance exceeded our expectations and thanks go out to all who came out on Saturday take part of all the offerings. I am honored to have been a part of bringing this cultural event to the community for the very first time,” she said, adding, “My deep appreciation goes out to Andy Young and Yiwen Chiang of the Buddha’s Light International Association of New Jersey. I hope to continue this tradition in the future, hopefully celebrating the Year of the Dog in 2018.”

About NJBCC

The New Jersey Buddhist Culture Center, located at 1007 New Brunswick Avenue in South Plainfield, is a Buddhist temple founded in October 1995 through the delegation of Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the 48th patriarch of the Linchi (Rinzai) Ch'an School.

The objective of the center is to provide a source for people in the community to get to know Buddha's teachings as well as to practice Buddhism in daily life. Regular programs include group practice, Dharma talk, sutra/book study, meditation and vegetarian cooking classes as well as occasional educational and spiritual activities.

BLIA-NJ holds services every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and members of the community are welcome. “Our temple and our association welcomes people to experience our services and join us for various activities. We welcome all people to come out and get to know us,” said Chiang.

BLIA-NJ is located at 1007 New Brunswick Avenue in South Plainfield. For more information, contact BLIA-NJ at (908) 822-8620 or visit www.ibps.org/newjersey. To sign up for quarterly newsletters highlighting services, activities, and upcoming events, email blia.newjersey@gmail.com.

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