The Flower Festival of Little Saigon kicked off the Lunar New Year as it invited fresh, familiar faces to join in on the celebration.
From Jan. 18 to Feb. 3, visitors browsed the parking lot of the Asian Garden Mall in Westminster, which transformed into a bustling marketplace full of food and flowers.
Glowing red lanterns from above lit up the tents that formed the walkways through which visitors could pass. Tents and booths burst with color and filled from edge to ceiling with goods.
“It really reminds you of Asia, of the street food culture that we have in Asia but here in America,” said Peter Lee, a first-time event attendee. “It was like walking through Asia, walking through the streets of Saigon or walking through the streets of Taipei.”
Booths displayed popular, seasonal flowers in blooms of orchids, purples, pinks and whites, along with tall vines and other decorative household plants.
Rancho Alamitos High School students Khoi Doan and Joseph Nguyen worked with schoolmate Andre Vu’s family, who have been vending at the event for 14 years.
“I’ve been (coming) here ever since I was a kid, but last year was the first year I started working here,” Nguyen said.
Some of Nguyen’s responsibilities included caring for the orchids, explaining floral care and the cost of plants.
While managing a booth that gave out traditional red envelopes along with Year of the Boar ornamentals, Doan said he loved the experience interacting with others and promoting his Vietnamese culture.
Open grills roasting pork skewers, squid, corn cobs and skewered potato fries sent flavorful aromas across the crowd. The cuisine drew the attention of Lee who said that the food is one of his favorite parts of the event and he would return to enjoy it, as well as the lion dancing and celebration.
The night sky was filled with the sound of popping firecrackers as drum beats vibrated the air.
A crowd formed around the band on stage, and couples danced to the melodic instrumentals and traditional Vietnamese songs.
A lion dance led the audience to rush to the stage as families placed their children atop their shoulders to ensure a better view of the spectacle. The traditional lion dance is a partnered act where performers dress in a costume of the body of a lion with the head of a dragon, typically performed to bring prosperity and good luck.
“It is the Year of the Boar and I was born in the Year of the Boar, so it’s supposed to be a really good year for me,” Lee said. “I’m really stoked about it being a prosperous coming new year.”
A firecracker celebration will be hosted Tuesday at the Asian Garden Mall, from noon to 1 p.m. to ring in the new year.