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Colorado Springs residents of all cultures celebrate Chinese New Year

By: Jesse Byrnes, The Gazette
January 25, 2014 Updated: January 26, 2014 at 10:48 am
Caption +
Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu dancers perform a lion dance at the Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute's 13th Annual Chinese New Years Festival Saturday, January 25, 2014 at City Auditorium. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

No one knows whether 2014 will be the year of the Denver Broncos, but it's definitely the year of the horse.

About 2,000 people showed up at Colorado Springs City Auditorium Saturday to observe the Chinese New Year, which begins Jan. 31, and will usher in the year of the horse, one of 12 Chinese zodiac calendar animals.

The auditorium was adorned with Asian decorations and Chinese banners, but right beside many of them were Broncos horse logos.

"We try to include as many Chinese cultural events as possible," said Herman Tiemens II, chairman of the festival and a board member of the Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute, which hosted the event.

The exhibits, cultural displays and foods celebrated many parts of broader Chinese culture, including Mongolian masked dances and Japanese drumming - "anything with a connection to Chinese society," Tiemens said. Members of the local ballet even performed a Chinese dance scene from the Nutcracker.

"We want to be broad but we want the performances to be relevant," Tiemens said.

Those of Asian descent make up 3 percent of the Colorado Springs community, or about 12,500 residents, according 2010 census numbers. Of those, about 2,250 are Chinese.

Mali Hsu, founder and chairwoman of the institute, said the festival, now in its 13th year, attracts people of many cultural backgrounds who are interested in Chinese traditions.

"It's the idea of America being a cultural event," said Mark Wong, a Manitou Springs artist and business owner. "The idea that they can come together under the auspices of a Chinese New Year is a really sacred thing."

Wong showed children how to spin pottery, selling his own ceramic mugs with painted horses.

"It's one of the only one's I know," he said of zodiac animal, chuckling.

"I just like all the art. It's different," said Tim Griffith, who brought his wife and two daughters, Shelby,16, and Emily ,14, to the festival. After the Taiko Society finished a drumming performance, Griffith banged his hands on his own invisible set of Japanese drums.

"We were so excited. It was my year," said Sandra, his wife.

"So many Americans like Chinese culture," said Ruinian Wang, who retired in Colorado Springs with his wife in 1996 after practicing pathology in Shanghai for 35 years. Born in 1930, Wang's zodiac is also a horse, which means one will be energetic and enthusiastic with a lot of activities happening to them, Hsu said.

The animals in the Chinese zodiac (Sheng Xiao) repeat every dozen years. Last year was the year of the snake, and 2012 the year of the dragon. The 12 animals are also matched with a specific element - metal, wood, water, soil or fire - making 2014 the year of the wooden horse.

This year the festival added the Chinese Language School Yo-Yo, the Chinese Language School Dance Class and a traditional Chinese dance performance by XiaoMei, who teaches at the dance school. The quieter Tea House off to one side also added a Tai Chi demonstration.

The festival included 24 vendors, a kid zone hosted by the Colorado Springs Chinese Language School and a martial arts area used by three local martial arts schools. Forty students from Palmer and Fountain Valley high schools helped with the event, which was sponsored in part by The Gazette, as well as performers from around the region, including Denver and Boulder.

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