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Celebrate the Year of the Horse

The annual Chinese New Year celebration in Jacksonville will showcase a variety of entertaining, cultural and historical events celebrating the Year of the Horse.

The event, hosted by the Southern Oregon Chinese Cultural Association and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, with a 5K fun run that starts from Bigham Knoll. Registration is required. Activities — which include cooking demonstrations, musical performances and historical tours — will continue in downtown Jacksonville throughout the day.

"We hope that people will take away an understanding of Chinese culture, as well as the history of Jacksonville," says Joey Ngan, logistics and publicity director for SOCCA.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Chinese Zodiac is broken down into a 60-year cycle of 12 animals and five elements. The horse, which was last celebrated in 2002, is one of the two work animals in the cycle. The horse symbolizes strength, speed, loyalty and success. The year of the horse is one where people experience success in their work.

"There is a saying that goes, 'When the horse arrives, success is assured,'" Ngan says.

The festivities continue with the traditional Chinese New Year parade at 10:30 a.m. The procession, which begins at the corner of Oregon and Main streets, is the community's opportunity to actively participate in the celebration and will feature traditional lion and dragon dancers, student groups and horses to herald the arrival of the animal's year.

One of the highlights of the day's festivities is a special art presentation. Yeh Fei Pai, an artist from Taiwan, will use his signature splash ink brush style of painting to make "Celestial Horses" come to life. Having studied television and film production in college, Yeh infuses the disciplines of cinematography into the horses that his family has painted for two generations. His painting demonstration will be held at 11:30 a.m. in the U.S. Hotel Ballroom, 125 E. California St.

At 12:30 p.m., author and attorney Martin Gold discusses the history of the Chinese Exclusion Laws and his book "Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the U.S. Congress." With 35 years of legislative experience in Washington D.C., Gold is one of the leading experts of congressional procedures. He has advised U.S. senators and served on many Senate committees. Gold also will discuss the "1882 Project," whose efforts resulted in the passage of Senate Resolution 201 in 2011. This resolution gave complete acknowledgement of the passage of discriminatory laws against the Chinese in America and expressed national regret for their existence. The lecture will take place at the Historic Presbyterian Church Sanctuary at 405 E. California St.

The day will come to a close at 2 p.m. with a performance by Portland's Dragon Art Studio. Returning by popular demand, the award-winning puppeteers — Yuqin Wang and her husband, Zhengli Xu, along with their daughter and apprentice, Brenda Xu — will present their show "Images of China." Using large, hand-made rod puppets, the group will depict vignettes and stories of China, both traditional and modern. The show will take place in the Jacksonville Elementary School gymnasium, 655 Hueners Lane. Tickets for the show cost $5.

For the full schedule of events, visit www.socca.us. While most activities are free, some have a small cost associated with them. Tickets for these activities can be purchased at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. Call 541-899-8118.

Celebrate the Year of the Horse