Chinese New Year celebrates Year of the Dragon in Las Vegas

Chinese New Year 2012 — the 15-day festival celebrating the beginning of the year of the dragon — begins Monday, and events in Las Vegas will ring in the Lunar New Year right on time, beginning Monday and extending through Feb. 1.

Tina Lee, event coordinator of this year’s celebration for the Chinese American Chamber of Commerce, said the fest gives Chinese-Americans an opportunity to share their traditions.

"We want the American community to know about Chinese culture," Lee said.

The centerpiece of the celebration Jan. 29 at the Chinatown Plaza will be all-day entertainment including Chinese folk dance, tiger drums, lion and dragon dances, Lee said. There also will be a variety of food and other retail vendors representing not only the Chinese culture but those of Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and the United States.

"It’s also a very good opportunity for networking," Lee said, with representation by businesses, plus nonprofit and social organizations.

A five-day celebration is planned for downtown Las Vegas from Tuesday through Jan. 28, beginning at 6 p.m. daily and includes dragon and lion dances, cultural presentations, karaoke competitions, a vendor village and virtual dragon dances on the Fremont Street Experience canopy.

But Chinatown and downtown won’t have the only dragon games in town. Many local properties are planning lion dances, elaborate decorations, special menus and other cultural celebrations. Here’s a selection:

Monday: A ceremonial dragon dance complete with firecrackers and eye-painting ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. in the porte cochere at The Venetian. A parade of dancers and musicians will move through Palazzo. There also are seasonal decorations throughout both resorts, including a 128-foot, 8,000-pound, fire-breathing dragon suspended above Palazzo’s waterfall and atrium gardens.

Tuesday: There will be lion dances at 1 p.m. at Aria, 1:30 p.m. at Crystals (with kung fu artists and Chinese performers) and 4 p.m. at The Mirage, plus displays at Crystals, including a 43-foot-long, 12-foot-high ceremonial dragon chasing a pearl, symbolizing the pursuit of wisdom.

The opening ceremonies of the celebration in downtown Las Vegas will be at 6 p.m. with a dragon dance performed by Lohan School of Shaolin with virtual firecrackers on the canopy, plus an eye-painting ceremony, parade and 888 people (for good luck) participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Wednesday: There will be lion dances at 1 p.m. at MGM Grand and 6:30 p.m. at Bellagio, plus displays at Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, including two animated 25-foot dragons wrapped around a cylinder of water and a 21,000-gallon pond with more than 200 koi, which can be viewed through March 4. Live musical performances will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. daily in the conservatory.

Jan. 27: There will be lion dances at 5 p.m. at Harrah’s Las Vegas, 6:15 p.m. at the Imperial Palace, 7 p.m. at the Flamingo Las Vegas and 10 p.m. at the Rio.

Jan. 28: There will be lion dances at noon at Planet Hollywood, 1 p.m. at Paris Las Vegas, 2 p.m. at Bally’s and 5 p.m. at Caesars Palace.

Jan. 27 and 28: At 8 p.m., the Wakin Chau: Diva Live concert at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace will take place. For tickets ($48 to $188 plus fees), go to the box office or www.Ticketmaster.com, or call (800) 745-3000.

Jan. 29: A celebration from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with live entertainment from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will take place at Chinatown Plaza, 4255 Spring Mountain Road. Entertainment will include lion and dragon dances; Chinese folk dance, martial arts and acrobats; Japanese dance and Taiko drums; and Polynesian, Vietnamese and Korean dance. Chinese arts and crafts, a calligrapher and fortuneteller, and retail vendors also will be on site. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children ages 6-12 and free for children 5 and younger.

Feb. 1: A lion dance will parade through the casino at the Gold Coast at 7:30 and 10 p.m. The procession will make several stops in the casino to pull ceremonial lettuce from the ceiling and toss the leaves to spectators.

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.

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