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‘Good to have hope’: Businesses prepare for Vancouver’s first-ever ‘Light Up Chinatown!’ – BC

After being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation and the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Area Society will be lighting up the streets next weekend in a grassroots effort to welcome people back to the historic neighbourhood.

The inaugural Light Up Chinatown! community celebration planned for Sept. 11 and 12 will feature live entertainment, food trucks, lights, and decorations.

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More than 50 volunteers spent Saturday washing windows, cleaning sidewalks and collecting garbage in preparation for the lantern festival, which organizers hope will become an annual event.

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“For many of the merchants and many of the people that live and work here in Chinatown, it’s a symbol that others do care,” Vancouver Chinatown Foundation volunteer Bill Tam told Global News.

Tam believes COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on Chinatowns. In Vancouver, tourists and shoppers disappeared amid a spike in anti-Asian attacks and a surge of street disorder that saw the area overrun with graffiti, vandalism, and garbage.

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“It’s been tough for Chinatown, the last year or so … during COVID and the rise of anti-Asian racism so the neighbourhood I think needed a little bit of loving care,” said Carol Lee, Vancouver Chinatown Foundation chair and co-founder.

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Tam said one of the goals is to rejuvenate businesses in the heart of the community by “cleaning it up, making it safe, making it so that people want to come here.”

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After more than 40 years serving Chinatown, the owners of Bamboo Village on Pender Street know how to adapt to what customers want.

“Businesses have ups and downs, just like life ups and downs,” co-owner Keller Ng told Global News.

“In order to make us survive, we need to change ourselves.”

The family-owned and operated shop known for its museum-worthy collectibles looks more like a perennial emporium these days, as the demand for plants and flower pots picked up during the pandemic.

“We’ve been seeing the changes in Chinatown,” Ng said, “like going from a golden age, and then all the way going down.”

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The business community hopes Light Up Chinatown! will help attract new visitors.

“Hopefully it will bring up some sparkles, to bring people back to Chinatown,” Ng said.

New York City’s Light Up Chinatown project saw Mott Street adorned with lights and lanterns last winter, and the community advocate behind it is excited to hear Vancouver is trying it, too.

“It could transcend into other cities,” Patrick Mock said. “That’s what I had in mind when I started this project.”

Mock, who manages 46 Mott Street Bakery in New York, got the idea for Light Up Chinatown at the height of COVID-19, when the streets were empty and his shop was one of only five open within a four-block radius.

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He said the lanterns brought different generations of the neighbourhood together to let customers know that Chinatown is open for business.

The project was led by donations, and Mock said all proceeds will go towards installing permanent light fixtures and traditional lanterns in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown.

“It also became a symbol of hope for the neighbourhood,” Mock told Global News.

“To find the light at the end of this tunnel during tough times.”

Lanterns will be hung in Vancouver’s Chinatown on Friday, Sept. 10., in advance of the first-ever Light Up Chinatown! event.

“It’s always good to have hope,” Ng said.

“I always hope that tomorrow would be better.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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