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Flushing prepares for Lunar New Year celebration

Move over rat; make way for the ox.

Flushing is gearing up to celebrate the 2009 Lunar New Year, which is expected to draw thousands to the central Queens neighborhood to celebrate the Year of the Ox. More than three weeks of events have been planned throughout Flushing in what is annually a wildly popular, colorful display of culture and family fun.

Members of the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District officially announced the schedule for this year’s Lunar New Year celebration last Thursday, which launches Jan. 24 and wraps up Feb. 14.

A wide variety of free events will be offered, including the Flushing Lunar parade Jan. 31, a traditional Korean music performance at Flushing Town Hall Jan. 24 and a tea tasting and ceremony at town hall Feb. 14.

The centerpiece of the Flushing celebration is the Lunar New Year parade. This year’s parade, which will take place on Jan. 31. at 11 a.m., will begin at Union Street and 37th Avenue, travel south on Union Street, turn right onto Sanford Avenue and then Kissena Boulevard and finally merge with Main Street, ending at the corner of Main Street and 37th Avenue.

The parade features more than 4,000 marchers, dancers and musicians who emulate the celebratory spirit of the Asian holiday. Trains of people perform dragon and lion dances in elaborate and colorful costumes often more than 20 feet long.

“We’re making a real big push this year to let people know these events are free and affordable,” said Mabel Law, executive director of the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub BID. “It’s a great event for everyone, especially for families.”

The Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, is considered the most important of the traditional Chinese and Korean holidays. The two−week long festival begins on the first day of the lunar calendar and ends with what is known as the Lantern Festival.

Jan. 26 marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox, considered a sign of fortitude and hard work in Asian cultures.

The Chinese and Korean communities will break off following the parade and host separate cultural events and performances throughout the day at the Flushing Mall at 133−31 39th Ave. and at Korea Village at 150−24 Northern Blvd.

Paul Qiu, assistant manager of the Flushing Library, and Donna Ciampa−Lauria, director of the library, said the institution will be hosting a number of events as well as including a lecture on Chinese arts Jan. 24 at 2 p.m., costumed dance and song performances Jan. 31 and a Year of the Ox crafts workshop Feb. 1. Flushing Library has been involved in the Lunar New Year celebration for more than a decade.

“People really want to enjoy and share each others’ cultures,” Qiu said.

Catherine Lee, director of the recently opened Crossing Art Gallery on 38th Avenue in Flushing, is looking forward to participating in the Lunar New Year celebration for the first time.

“We’re going to have a float in the parade,” said Lee, whose gallery is the largest Asian contemporary art gallery in Queens.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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