For decades, Chinese New Year in Southern California has been synonymous with the Chinatown on the edge of downtown Los Angeles.
Thousands flock to North Broadway each February for the annual parade, to take in the spectacle of dragons, bands and exploding fireworks.
Now, community leaders in the "other Chinatown"--the West San Gabriel Valley with its burgeoning Chinese-American population--say the time has come for a New Year's celebration of their own.
For the first time, city officials and business leaders in Alhambra and Monterey Park will stage a daylong parade and arts festival that organizers say is an overdue response to the dramatic ethnic shift that has taken place in the region.
"The Chinese are coming of age in America," said John Frykenberg, executive director of the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce, one of the sponsors of the event, which will take place Feb. 8, the fifth day of the Year of the Monkey, and a week before the Los Angeles Chinatown celebration.
Organizers say they don't intend to compete for spectators with the long-established Chinatown parade, which has largely ceased to be an event for the Chinese community.
"Eighty percent of the (Chinatown) spectators are (non-Chinese) people," said Alhambra developer Raymond Cheng, who is spearheading the San Gabriel Valley event. "I don't expect to draw that kind of crowd here. Monterey Park would never appeal to the Caucasians as Chinatown does."
Instead, Cheng said, the Alhambra/Monterey Park event will draw local people who rarely, if ever, go to Chinatown.
Monterey Park Mayor Sam Kiang, for example, has only seen Chinatown's parade once. He said he never eats or shops in Chinatown and tends to forget when Chinese New Year rolls around each year because he's usually working that day. But a local parade may be just the thing to drum up interest in people like him, he said.
The separate parades point to two distinctly different cultures--Chinatown's largely Cantonese-speaking population and Monterey Park's Mandarin-speaking community, said Eddie Wang, general manager of a Chinese cable television station in South El Monte that is helping organize the San Gabriel Valley event.
Wang, who moved to San Marino from Taiwan one year ago, said those differences have made it impossible for entrepreneurs like him to fit in with the Chinatown business elite, and they would never feel at home participating in Chinatown's New Year festivities.
Wang's cable company, North America Television Corp., will broadcast the Alhambra/Monterey Park parade live in Mandarin. Another company, the Jade Channel, will air the Chinatown event in Cantonese and Mandarin, as will KSCI-Channel 18, a multiethnic station in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Chinatown leaders said they don't believe the San Gabriel Valley event will rival theirs.
"Sooner or later they were going to do their own," said Patrick Lee, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which has sponsored the Chinatown parade for 36 years. "That community celebrates their way, and we celebrate our way."
City officials in Alhambra and Monterey Park have agreed to block off a 1.5-mile stretch of Garfield Avenue and a portion of Valley Boulevard for the parade.
The route will begin at Monterey Park City Hall, continue down Garfield and end at Valley, where food, retail and crafts booths will be set up between Garfield Avenue and 4th Street.
Both cities are providing police, fire and street services free of charge. Organizers are tapping large corporations and local businesses to sponsor the parade and festival.
They've raised about half the $50,000 needed, with AT&T; contributing $18,000, Frykenberg said.