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Long Beach New Year, Without a Parade

The crowd is watching a traditional dance during the Cambodian Culture Festival at MacArthur Park, Long Beach, California.

Every year since 2005, Khmer New Year was celebrated with a parade on the first Sunday of April along Anaheim Street in Long Beach, Calif.

This year, however, that harbinger of the new year was suspended, due to financial difficulties. A cultural festival was held instead on April 1, to usher in the Year of the Dragon.

“There was financial support from people in the community, but it wasn’t enough,” said Steve Meng, president of the Cambodian Coordinating Council, which typically organizes the parade.

A parade can cost up to $40,000 and brings in tens of thousands of people from across California and the country.

But it also takes a lot of contribution from the community, Meng said. “If we only have a few people to do the work, and others just stay behind and talk the talk, we aren’t able to do it better.”

Some residents in Long Beach were not happy with the new arrangement.

“It’s sad and disappointing not to have a parade,” said one woman, who gave her name as Theary. “It used to be very lively in our community during the parade, like in other countries. I hope we can do it next year.”

Businesses, too, were likely hurt by the cancellation, Meng said. “Without a parade, businesses that are usually busy will be slow.”

“Long Beach is rich in Khmer food and clothing, so people who come to see the parade also purchase these to take back home,” he said.

This year, around a thousand people gathered at MacArthur Park in Cambodia Town, Long Beach, to celebrate the cultural festival. Traditional dance, music and food were available, and Richer San, co-president of Cambodia Town, said people would likely take some food or other goods back with them.

Samnang, a Long Beach resident, said new year celebrations in Cambodia don’t include a parade. “The main point about Khmer New Year is that we all come together, see each other, have fun and enjoy the cultural dances and food.”

Still, organizers hope next year will be different.

“We all want the parade,” San said. “Especially our local business owners, who make money during the parade. But we still have to figure out how to handle our financial problem.”