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Oriental's Newest Dragon Debuts
Village Celebrates Chinese New Year
February 6, 2011
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riental’s newest dragon made its debut Thursday afternoon and helped the village with its first-ever celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

chinese dragon
The dragon during one of it’s maneuvers on Hodges Street.

For a half hour, the dragon floated above the crowd on Hodges Street, or swept down toward the spectators, bobbing and weaving, stopping now and again to curl up on itself and then unfurl. It was a magical first run for the dragon, and the two crews of dragon handlers whose moves brought the 43 foot long creature to life.

dragon Town Dock Chinese New Year
The dragon’s head at part of the crowd near Oriental’s Town Dock.

About two hundred people turned out on Hodges near the Town Dock for the 4p event. Some in the crowd said they’d come from outside Pamlico County in order to see — and have their children see — a traditional Chinese New Year dragon run. It was a first for Oriental. Even though the town has adopted dragons as its symbol for half a century, Oriental never before marked the start of the Asian New Year. It appears that has now changed.

chinese dragon
The dragon and its teams — some with fans deployed — worked their way down Hodges Street Thursday.

It was something that wasn’t even planned 6 weeks ago when Charlie Overcash ordered the dragon from Guondong, China. He’d done that because he and a number of others in town wanted to have a second dragon run near midnight on the Western New Year, December 31 and the secret group organizing that event only wanted to run the dragon one time, earlier that evening. Charlie’s campaign caught on. People sent in money to cover the cost of the $800 dragon and poles needed to hold it up. All was going well, until a snowstorm held up the delivery.

chinese dragon
The dragon sauntered down Hodges toward the blue buildings of Garland Fulcher Seafood.

The dragon arrived a few days in to January. It was too late for the December 31 celebration. But a check of the calendar found that it could still make a New Year’s debut — for the Chinese New Year, celebrated a month or so later. This year, the Lunar New Year fell on February 3. A plan was hatched to have the dragon make its debut then.

Which is how a few hundred people came to be standing on Hodges Street Thursday afternoon, waiting for Oriental’s latest dragon to help ring in the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.

A dizzy dragon. Sigrid Overcash puts the dragon thru its paces, with swirling turns.

Above the heads of the crowd, the dragon was held aloft by poles held by 7 people. Two crews — Sigrid Overcash, Toni Leavitt, Pat Elliott, Jo Tingle, Bob Miller, Ken Laser, Lou Ann Reinecke, Jennifer Roe, Cam Funk, Rainy Bilicki, Al Fauvell, Ginny Czikra, Carol Small, and Lee Duer — had rehearsed their moves with part-time Oriental resident and NY choreographer Wendy Osserman a few times before the dragon’s Thursday debut.

chinese dragon
The dragon wraps around itself in front of spectators near The Bean.

The practice sessions were rewarded from the first moment the teams and dragon appeared on Hodges Street; the creature projected a spirit of its own, running to the beat of Oriental’s Drummin’ Dragons and the clang of pots and pans, the traditional Oriental greeting for its dragons.

chinese dragon drummers
Oriental’s Drumming Dragons, at left, Roger Cordes and at right, Nol Engel who had to contend with the red and yellow crepe streamers that children in the procession were waving.

In that half hour on Hodges, the new dragon started a new Oriental tradition of marking the Chinese New Year. It’ll do it again next year, though you needn’t wait til then to see it. Charlie Overcash says the dragon will be available for other events during the year. Croakerfest for one. Also, there’s a chance the dragon could come out in April when the Cycle NC weekend brings more than a thousand cyclists to town.

More glimpses of the new dragon and of Thursday’s scene at the Chinese New Year dragon run, can be seen on the following pages.

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Posted Sunday February 6, 2011 by Melinda Penkava

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