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Lunar New Year: Lovely and Lively

As the children filed into the auditorium, arranging themselves on the floor, the excitement built and built. More kids means more noise—the steps, the chatter, the teacher directions—and as the room filled, the buzz grew louder until at last, with everyone seated, the Principal, Rafael Flores Jr., took the stage, picked up a microphone, and spoke.

Silence fell over the large room as he introduced what all awaited—the 2013 Lunar New Year Celebration of Hayward’s Schaefer Park Elementary School, their ninth in a row. And celebrate they did!

The auditorium was festive with student work—paper lanterns strung overhead, paper plate zodiacs affixed to walls, and across the stage front, large pink paper flowers brightened the room, representing the paper lanterns that traditionally end the 15 day celebration.

Also brightening the room were the students, as performances kept the audience rapt with attention. First, with three drums (purchased with an HEF grant) teacher George Kwong and two student drummers used every bit of the drum—sticks on skins, on sides, on other sticks—to energize the audience with strong, loud, vigorous rhythms.

Next, a class of second and third graders wearing red yin and yang t-shirts bedazzled the audience with a Korean song—Hak Yo Jong Ee, followed by 12 students wearing a t-shirt and carrying a stuffed animal for each different zodiac sign. As each student walked to center stage, the student hostess read the characteristics of people born under that sign, and named which Schaefer Park grade level was born in that year, a nice personal touch.

After that, energy exploded with six boys carrying colored flags symbolizing Spring’s return, who raced, really raced, through the audience and up on the stage, where they performed well-coordinated moves before racing back down the stairs and out the door one at a time. Energy was replaced by grace and beauty, with four girls in white, twirling sticks with long pink ribbons on the end. Choreographed in unison, their perfectly twirling ribbons—signifying happiness-- were mesmerizing.

Energy climaxed with the coming of the lion dancers, the largest lion costume bought with an HEF grant. The sound of a thousand firecrackers introduced five lions, with two students in each costume. They danced, they swayed, they swerved, they dipped their heads toward the screaming audience in pretend attack, continuing to cavort both on the stage and right before the student body, scaring away all evil and bad luck. At their center was another student in red clothing, and a large, smiling, Chinese mask-head—the FAAT guy, a good-will ambassador wishing prosperity to the audience.

The show culminated in a fashion show that also had the students screaming with excitement. Several students, one at a time, modeled different well-tailored Asian outfits with all the moves of big-time models. And seeing friends on stage is a guaranteed noise-maker with kids. The noise for the students, however, was nothing compared to the noise at the next wave of models—the teachers. Many of the Schaefer Park staff—including the principal-- participated in this celebration, wearing authentic Asian clothing in a variety of outfits, eliciting thunderous screams of affection for their teachers. Fun!

One outfit in particular drew attention, a flowing red and blue Korean dress known as a Hambok, worn by Karen Gawron, a second and third grade teacher, and one of the chief organizers of this party. Also prime movers behind this Lunar New Year gala, were teachers George Kwong and Nhung Tran-Razzari, both of whom received recent HEF grants to help fund the drums and costumes.

Any large production like this means extra work for teachers in an already busy, busy job. Thus the whole Schaefer Park staff, and these three teachers in particular, are to be commended for creating this unforgettable event.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!


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