Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012 | 4:42 p.m.
Forget the unemployment rate and housing crisis. If Chinese folklore proves true, 2012 could signal a positive change for Las Vegas and the rest of the world.
It’s the Year of the Dragon — revered as the most powerful Chinese zodiac sign whose presence is a sign of good fortune.
“It’s the luckiest symbol out of 12,” said Sharon Hwang, a volunteer with the Chinese American Chamber of Commerce of Nevada. “This should be a good year.”
To celebrate the Chinese New Year, which began Jan. 23, thousands of people packed the Las Vegas Chinatown Plaza on Sunday to eat, browse vendor booths and watch performers from the worlds of music, dance and acrobatics.
At one end of the annual festival, traditional Chinese happy cakes lined a table, where a constant stream of people stopped to buy the sweet treat.
“When you steam (the cake), it opens like a smile,” explained Cheryl Luk, a volunteer with the Nevada Buddhist Association. Families typically serve the cakes at Chinese New Year celebrations, she said.
Ricky Montanez’s reason for attending the festival was simple: “The food!” he said, as he ate a steamed bun filled with pork, egg and onions.
Others came for the cultural experience.
“I came out because I am Chinese, and I want (my grandchildren) to know about Chinese culture,” said Pola Hoskins, as she pushed her granddaughter’s stroller.
Erika and Juan Gonzalez brought their two children — Jade Lynn, 4, and Jacob Alexander, 2 — because their daughter expressed an interest in learning to speak Chinese.
“We like to let them experience the different cultures from Italian to Greek to Chinese,” said Juan Gonzalez, whose family is originally from Mexico.
The festival drew many from different backgrounds, but most shared a common hope for 2012: an end to the recession and the emergence of prosperity.
All that good fortune could lead to a population boom, Luk said.
“A lot of people say there will be more babies because more people like dragons,” she said.