Feature: Chinese float adorns Hastings Blossom Parade in New Zealand

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 03, 2020
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HASTINGS, New Zealand, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- Tens of thousands of people lined up the streets in New Zealand's inner city Hastings to see the colorful floats and amazing performances for the Hastings Blossom Parade on Saturday.

A total of 42 magnificent entries threaded their ways through main streets of the city with the 2020 theme "Flower Power - New Growth," attracting a crowd of over 25,000 viewers.

Along with the floats, there were many big mascots of the festival. Paw Patrol came to town again as are some other well-known animation characters such as White Bunny, Puumba, Mickey Mouse, Minion 1 and 2 and others.

The popular event, which has been held annually since 1950, has seen over 1,000 people taking part in the parade this year, including drivers, float makers, singers, dancers, parade marshals and clowns from a wide range of cultures representing every corner of the community.

The floats and performances brought people of all ages and cultures together in a colourful, creative, vibrant display. As one of the regional marquee events, which was usually held in the first week of September to the start of Spring and attracts large crowds every year. It has been postponed for three weeks due to COVID-19 level 2 restrictions disrupting plans.

One of the floats was named after northeast China's city of Shenyang, sponsored by the China Cultural Centre in Wellington, designed and made by Hastings district councillor and project director Kevin Watkins.

Watkins acknowledged the strong ties between Hastings and Shenyang. In the Amazing China-Hastings Year of Tourism 2019, Hastings established friendship with Shenyang and exchanged gifts.

He spent more than 300 hours on making the lantern shape float decorated with traditional Chinese lanterns and flowers. He embellished the float till midnight on Friday.

Watkins was also one of many to take part in the parade. He was driving the float happily, waving his arms to the excited audience on the street.

This lovely float was adorned by three charming ladies, Cebrina, Joey and Susanna. They were wearing magnificent traditional Qing Dynasty costumes made and sent especially for the blossom parade from Shenyang. The float displayed the theme of spring, flowers, lanterns, beauties and cultural exchanges.

"COVID-19 restrictions robbed us off our Chinese Lantern Festival earlier this year. The Chinese Lantern Festival has become a much loved family event in Hastings, so today, Kevin's float brings us a daylight lantern festival with all its delights and amazing colors, the flowers of Spring, and a close up look of ancient China culture," the host of the event explained to the audience through a loudspeaker.

The Hastings project, initiated and directed by Watkins, was part of the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism designed to increase cultural understanding and relationships between the two countries, leading to expanded tourism and trade opportunities.

Watkins said Hastings has strong economic links with China, through horticulture exports and international education, and many friendly-city relationships.

"Hastings does have a long relationship with China. Back in 1981 Hastings and Guilin became the first China New Zealand sister-cities and next year we will be celebrating their fortieth anniversary. So the relationship goes a long way."

"Not only with Guilin, but we have relationships with many cities and provinces right throughout China. Shenyang is a city that takes precedence for this float. Hastings has just had a wonderful relationship with China across many fields over many years so we appreciate it, and we know our partners in China appreciate it. You see the result of that relationship here today -- the China Shenyang Float," he said.

"Chinese friends are having a great time over there to celebrate the Moon Festival and we are having a wonderful time here in Hastings. This is our Blossom Festival to celebrate the arrival of spring. It's wonderful."

Watkins has taken part in the Blossom Parade every year since 1957. It was 63 years ago that he marched in his first Blossom Parade as a 8-year-old boy, whose family has lived in this city for five generations.

Both Watkins and the host of the event specially emphasized and thanked sponsorship and assistance of the the China Culture Centre in Wellington.

Guo Zongguang, director of the China Culture Center in Wellington, saw the cooperation as an opportunity to strengthen ties between both countries and promote the people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

"This cooperation is one of the many projects undertaken by Hastings and the China Culture Center in Wellington. These projects are helpful to strengthen ties between New Zealand and China and promote cultural exchange," said Guo.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world profoundly. Building a community with a shared future for mankind has become the firm choice of more and more countries. It turns more important to intensify people-to-people and cultural exchanges."

The parade was by far the largest gathering held in COVID-19 alert level 1 in New Zealand. New Zealand relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions, except Auckland, by moving from level 2 to Alert Level 1 on Sept. 21.

Under COVID-19 Alert Level 2, gathering sizes are restricted to 100 people, while only 10 people in Level 2.5 and Level 3. At Alert Level 1, everyone can return to work, school, sports and domestic travel, without gathering restrictions. However, border restrictions and good hygiene are required. Enditem

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