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Annual Hot Springs parade continues despite frigid temps

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HOT SPRINGS — Despite bone-chilling temperatures, hovering in the low teens, shivering spectators lined the parade route along Main Street to applaud and cheer as the brightly colored menagerie passed by. 

“A lot of us enjoy getting together to have fun,” said event organizer Linny Gibson. “I like the whole idea of the Chinese New Year.”

Residents of Hot Springs joined 1.5 billion people globally Saturday afternoon in saying goodbye to the Year of the Rat while ushering in the Year of the Ox during their 12th annual parade and observation of the Chinese New Year.

The Chinese New Year, which is typically known as the Lunar New Year and can fall anywhere from mid-January to late February, is a time for renewal, family togetherness, fireworks and food.

“It was something to do in the middle of the winter,” Gibson explained as to the reason why a little over a dozen years ago the small Western Montana community began celebrating the new year based on the phases of the moon, as opposed to the Roman calendar, which is based on phases of the sun.

“It’s a good marker for the change of the seasons,” said Gibson. “Days are beginning to get lighter and warmer.”

Every Lunar New Year correlates to one animal and its characteristics from the Chinese zodiac, and 2021 marks the Year of the Ox, which is the second sign in the Chinese Zodiac calendar. The ox is considered hardworking and reliable.

The event began with celebratory lighting of firecrackers to frighten away spirits of bad fortune, and then, a seven-foot-tall bright blue paper mâché ox, carried by two men, led this year’s spirited spectacle.

Following this year’s celebrated animal was a marching bucket drum corps slapping out their repertoire on makeshift drums made of decorated white plastic buckets and garbage cans. 

Animals from past celebrations, a large mechanical rat, an oversized purple pig, a sheep and a 50-foot-long rainbow-colored fish could be seen along the parade route.

Also making its appearance as part of Saturday’s festivities was a head-bobbing and zigzagging paper mâché dragon that required a six-person team to move the 30-foot-long creature down the parade route. According to Curt Kruse, the dragon’s designer, the dragon continues to be a part of the parade because it was the animal that started the whole thing.

“The parade officially really did not come into existence until the dragon made its appearance back in 2011,” said Kruse. “It really kicked it off from there.”


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