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February 18, 2009 > A Celebration of Diversity

A Celebration of Diversity

By Simon Wong

Credit must go to Meiling Zhou and her Union City 50th Anniversary (UC50) colleagues for staging a day of exciting entertainment and fun at the City's Sports Center on Sunday, February 8, 2009.

A belated Lunar New Year celebration it might have been but the highly successful event, which took two years of hard work and dedication to organize, was the embodiment of the City's spirit.

"Union City's decision-makers were very forward-looking when they asked Staff to re-write the General Plan in the late 1990's and to base it upon two things - economic development and services to youth, seniors and families," stated Mark Leonard on the eve of his retirement as Economic & Community Development Director in December 2008.

"We have built an inter-active and socially diverse community, of which I am particularly proud, a community that is physically very attractive and healthy," he said when he spoke of the rewards of his time in Union City.

Sunday's gathering was a family event and close to six-hundred-and-fifty people, including performers, took the opportunity to celebrate not only the City's 50th Anniversary and the Lunar New Year but also its diversity and youth. Exhibits explaining Chinese history and culture, a cooking demonstration, courtesy of Elaine Wong-Bigel from Rotary Clubs of F.U.N. (Fremont, Union City & Newark), Asian cuisine and live entertainment captivated visitors throughout the day.

What captured the imagination were the ages of the performers. Aged three to eighteen years, their discipline, athleticism, musicianship and dance skills had the audience spellbound. Their adult mentors either watched from the sidelines or played supporting roles. The spotlight shone directly on the young.

Jiayu Jeng, host of KTSF26 Television "Talk Tonight," was Mistress of Ceremonies assisted by Helen Kennedy, President of UC50 Board.

Among the performers were students from the O-Mei Kung Fu Academy, Fremont, gave fast-paced demonstrations with staff, sword and halberd. Choreographed fight scenes, featuring male and female protagonists, required split second timing to avoid injury. The youngest member, who is only three years old, gave a highly controlled solo performance illustrating the discipline required for success in martial arts.

The Crystal Children's Choir sang a selection of Chinese and English songs. The non-profit, choral organization is for boys and girls, aged six and up, living in the San Francisco Bay Area and is recognized for its excellence.

Traditional Chinese music was provided by the California Youth Chinese Symphony Orchestra which performs and introduces Chinese instruments to the public at community-based events such as the UC50 Lunar New Year Celebration. Although based in Santa Clara, many of its members are from Union City.

Young musicians played the guzheng (zither or lap harp), the erhu (a two-stringed violin) in contemporary standing position rather than seated, the suona (Chinese oboe), the sheng (Chinese mouth organ) and percussion instruments such as drums and cymbals. It takes at least between three and fives years of study to achieve proficiency. The young ladies who played the zither had studied for seven years.

The faculty of the California Youth Chinese Symphony performed traditional folk music - Happiness, Purple Bamboo Melody, Steppe Cavalry, Melody and Higher & Higher.

Lisa Performing Arts performed authentic, classical Chinese dance. Pretty Girls, Flower of Blossoming Season, a solo Butterfly Play, A New Year Picture, A Rose for Sweetheart and The Ballad of Kang Ding illustrated the themes of life, rebirth and divine inspiration.

What is truly inspiring, however, is the example set by these young men and women. Most are American-born and have embraced the rich heritage that their ancestors enjoyed in distant lands. Hopefully, they will pass on these values to their own children. Their example tells us that we can all enjoy and appreciate the best that other cultures and people have to offer.

For more information about Union City's 50th Anniversary celebrations, visit

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