Bainbridge Island Chinese Connection - Chinese New Year Celebration 2009 Year of the Ox2009

A Brief History of the Bainbridge Island Chinese Connection

In 1997, an American couple moved to Bainbridge Island after decades of living in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. Wondering how many other Old China Hands might reside on the Island, they ran an ad in the Review inviting "anyone with life experiences in China" to join in a pot luck picnic at Eagledale Park on the Fourth of July.

Over forty people showed up. Some had connections going back to China's pre-Revolutionary 1920's and some had only recent experience. The group agreed to meet annually for a Chinese New Year dinner party and to swap stories of their lives in China.

And what stories they were! One man, the son of a missionary, was home-schooled in China and went on to become an aeronautical engineer who helped design Lockheed’s SR-71 super plane, a top-secret project from the Skunk Works factory. Another, the daughter of a Beijing University professor, spent her childhood there in the 1920's when life in China was still lived in the traditional fashion: street vendors carried their loads in baskets on shoulder yokes, rickshaws and sedan chairs crowded the streets, and men and women took breaks in teahouses. Charles Cross, born and raised in China by missionary parents, was sent to the U.S. for his university years, but eventually returned to China as a young Marine Corps officer in WWII. He recalled that when he and his platoon went ashore in Shanghai, he was met by his old family houseboy, who called out to him, "I knew you’d come back!" Charles went on to become a distinguished diplomat and US Ambassador.

Another lady told her story. When she was a child in the 1930's, her family was caught in the civil war between Mao’s Revolutionaries and the Nationalist Army. They trekked across much of China by foot and horse cart, trying all the while to stay clear of the fighting as running battles raged on Mao's famous Long March to the mountain caves in Yunnan Province. Other Old China Hands with more recent experience include a Pan American pilot, several businessmen and women, diplomats, scholars and professionals.

A handful of the group thought it would be fun to stage a Chinese New Year Festival in Winslow, and the Bainbridge Island Chinese Connection was born. BICC, a registered non-profit corporation, is composed of a rotating board of directors numbering anywhere from five to ten members, each serving for a few years before being replaced by another Old China Hand volunteer. All board members have some personal knowledge of the traditions and excitement associated with Chinese New Year.

BICC has created many cultural learning opportunities for our community, including Lion Dance training for our high school students by a Seattle Kung Fu master, children dressing up in historical Chinese costumes to participate in the Festival's parade, elementary school kids making Chinese-style paper dragons and lanterns, and even establishing a Mandarin language learning center.

While the Festival itself presents Chinese traditions, dozens of community members of all ethnic backgrounds have pitched in and volunteered their time and hard work to bring it off successfully. The Suquamish Native American tribal members have enthusiastically supported the Festival and provided a mountain of firecrackers over the years. It can truly be said that Bainbridge Island's Chinese New Year Festival is an international event.

If you are interested in volunteering, we could use your help! Please contact us.

By Bill Evans

The 2009 Chinese New Year Festival and Parade is sponsored by:

Bainbridge Island Chinese Connection
Town & Country Markets
Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce
Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort
PHAROS interactive LLC
Bainbridge Downtown Association
...and our supporters:

John L. Scott Real Estate
Bainbridge Island