UWF celebrates Lunar New Year in a brand new way

By Elizabeth Gray
Staff Writer
Over the weekend, the University of West Florida put on the ninth year of the Lunar New Year Festival in a different way. For the first time, the festival was incorporated into downtown Pensacola’s Gallery Night.

Rachel Hendrix, assistant dean of High Impact Learning, said this is something that UWF International Programs and the Confucius Institute has wanted to do for some time. “Part of their philosophy is to promote Chinese language and culture into the campus and community, and sometimes it’s difficult to branch out, so we thought this was a really unique way for us to have more exposure to the community at large,” Hendrix said.

According to Hendrix, UWF made sure that there would be plenty for attendees to do by preparing for the festival four months in advance. The Filipino Student Association and the Chinese Student Association participated by having tables set up with food and cultural information. Palafox Street had 250 red silk lanterns hanging overhead, and UWF had multiple performances planned, including the traditional Lion dance.

Not only did the festival include UWF students, faculty, and staff, but they also hosted some special guests.

Jena Melançon, executive director for the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, attended the festival with 10 students from Brazil who are here for a leadership exchange. “The students are only in Pensacola for two weeks,” Melançon said. “This was a good opportunity for community service and for the students to explore the area and introduce them to multiple cultures all at once.”

And while some bystanders were waiting with curiosity, there was one woman who knew exactly what to expect and couldn’t wait for the performances to start. Cathy Riseley, a retired teacher and Hawaii native, came specifically to Gallery Night to celebrate the Lunar New Year. “In Hawaii the Lunar New Year is a huge event,” Riseley said.

“You are sweeping out all the bad from the previous year and ushering in the new.” Riseley, who is now a Florida resident, said Pensacola should include more cultural celebrations. “It’s good for the people who visit, and it’s good for the locals.”

Although this was the first year that the festival was hosted downtown, Hendrix said this is something that UWF is hoping to do at future Gallery Nights.

For more upcoming events at UWF visit the events and activities calendar online.

 

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Photo by Elizabeth Gray.