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MISS CHINATOWN USA 2014: A New Queen Is Crowned

Miss Chinatown USA 2014 Karen Li.

Miss Chinatown USA 2014 Karen Li.

Hailing from the great state of Texas, 17 year old Karen Li was crowned Miss Chinatown USA 2014 earlier this month. Karen Li being one of the youngest in the pageant’s history plans to attend Harvard University in the Fall. Miss Li with high academic achievements and an extra-curricular schedule that keeps most teens overwhelmed, she’s doing all of it and working part-time as a tutor. Her journey to the stage started about a year ago and all of her hard work has surely paid off. Li took control of the stage with her graceful poise, wowed the audience with her amazing violin performance to Spring in Xin Jiang, and her response to the Q&A portion went without a hitch and because of that the judges had awarded her with not only the Miss Talent title, but also the title of Miss Chinatown USA.

In a quick look back, the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant began with twelve young ladies from six states embarking on a journey that would forever change their lives. For some delegates this pageant has been their very first on stage experience and for others this pageant has been something highly trained and anticipated. Having arrived six days prior to competition the twelve ladies took part in constant practice and dress rehearsals in preparation for the big show at the Palace of Fine Arts.

On the night of the pageant the ladies were judged on Introduction and Poise, Fitness and Form, Talent, and Question and Answer. The theme for this year’s pageant was Quest for Beauty / The Spice of Life with guest performer Angela Pang. Prior to each contestant and their opening introductions, each created a short cooking demonstration video about a favorite dish that is liked to have during the Chinese New Year. Although the judges were not given these dishes to taste, all twelve dishes looked very appetizing.

The day following the pageant, Miss Chinatown, her court, and the other delegates trekked up and down the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown to visit several family and benevolent associations. These associations have family and cultural ties back to China. In a couple of the visited associations the ladies and members of the visited associations paid respects to ancestors of the host association and engaged in ancestral worship (i.e. bowing, burning incense and symbolic paper money, and food and drink offerings).

Over the next several days, the ladies toured tourist attractions throughout San Francisco, visited and gave fruit to some patients at San Francisco’s Chinese Hospital, met and greeted the elderly at the On-Lok Senior Center, and made a few media appearances with KTSF, Sing Tao Daily/Radio, World Journal, and Fong Brothers Printing.

Two major events that followed the Miss Chinatown Pageant were the Coronation Ball and the Chinese New Year Parade. The Coronation Ball took place this year at the Hilton Union Square. Mayor Ed Lee gave a brief speech before the ladies received their trophies. Miss Chinatown Karen Li was awarded with AT&T’s Miss Innovation Award because she won the title of Miss Talent and received the LG G Flex smartphone. Macy’s also honored Miss Li with a monetary gift. In addition to all the awards that were granted, the Coronation Ball is when Miss Congeniality is awarded. She is selected by the delegates of the pageant. Miss Congeniality for 2014 was awarded to Tiffany Au representing San Gabriel, CA. Having the formalities of awards and speeches out of the way, Miss Chinatown and the other delegates each danced a song with local dignitaries and the ball continued as open floor dancing went on throughout the night.

The following night Miss Chinatown did not have her parade rained upon as it occasionally happens during the Lunar New Year. The Chinese New Year Parade, one of the top viewed parades in the country, is the #1 leading night parade. Millions watched in person and on the air the parade’s 100+ units as the parade celebrated the “Year of the Horse”. As soon as the parade concluded, the skies wept a little, but did no help to California’s drought.

Miss Chinatown USA with the other delegates.

Miss Chinatown USA with the other delegates.

 

The results of the program are as follows:

  • Miss Chinatown USA; in addition to Miss Talent: Karen Li /Houston, TX
  • Miss Chinese Chamber of Commerce/1st Princess: Ka Man Lee / Seattle, WA
  • Miss San Francisco Chinatown: Mengying Liu / San Mateo, CA
  • Second Princess: Seun Seun Yim / Pasadena, CA
  • Third Princess: Judy Lee / San Francisco, CA
  • Fourth Princess: Kristen Hee / San Francisco, CA
  • Miss Congeniality: Tiffany Au / San Gabriel, CA

The Miss Chinatown USA Pageant has been a part of San Francisco’s history since 1958. The pageant presented by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce continues to provide young ladies the platform to promote self-empowerment through public speaking, acting, dancing, singing, etc. The pageant also strives to keep the preservation of Chinese culture, and allows the young ladies to participate in the community through various services and actions of goodwill.

Karen Li performing Spring in Xin Jiang.
Karen Li performing Spring in Xin Jiang.
 
Mengying Liu elegantly dances for her talent.Mengying Liu elegantly dances for her talent.
 
Jessalyn Lau demonstates her martial arts skills.Jessalyn Lau demonstates her martial arts skills.
 
Ka Man Lee sings her heart out to "I Dreamed A Dream".Ka Man Lee sings her heart out to “I Dreamed A Dream”.
 
Jessalyn Lau from Hawaii generously receives personalized gold jewelry and she offers her association with a gift in return of leis and treats.Jessalyn Lau from Hawaii generously receives personalized gold jewelry and she offers her association with a gift in return of leis and treats.
 
 Miss Chinatown and the delegates at an association visit.Miss Chinatown and the delegates at an association visit.
 
Miss Chinatown Karen Li and Chinese Chamber of Commerce President Kenny Tse with the first dance.Miss Chinatown Karen Li and Chinese Chamber of Commerce President Kenny Tse with the first dance.
Local dignitaries and Miss Chinatown delegates with their first dance.
Local dignitaries and Miss Chinatown delegates with their first dance.

Follow Michael Jeong on Twitter at @MJPhotographySF or Facebook at www.facebook.com/mjphotographysf 

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An Exclusive Interview: Miss California 2013, Crystal Lee

Miss California Crystal Lee

Crystal Lee, crowned Miss California 2013, dazzled America in September as she vied for the coveted title of Miss America 2014. This year’s competition was brought back to the place where it all started, Atlantic City, after having been hosted in Las Vegas for several years. Lee made it look so easy, and I learned through her that the journey to the competition had not been easy for her. In fact, it took three attempts on the state level before she was able to reach the national stage. Although Lee went through periods of disappointment and self-doubt, it forced her to accept failure, come up with a new perspective and plan of attack, and to develop an attitude of determination.

Lee was born in San Francisco to an American-born Chinese father and Taiwanese mother. She was educated through San Francisco’s public school system and graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in Human Biology and M.A. in Communication last June. She likes sashimi and enjoys outdoor activities such as backpacking, hiking, and camping. She also loves to read up on the latest technological developments and dreams of starting her own company one day by developing a great product or service.

Miss California Crystal Lee (3)

Ever since Lee was a young girl, she was always interested in pageants. She remembers moments like watching the Chinese New Year Parade and seeing Miss Chinatown wave from her float. Lee started her years in pageantry at the age of 15 when she entered the Miss Teen Chinatown 2007 competition. The following year was crowned Miss California’s Outstanding Teen 2008. A couple of years later, Lee was crowned Miss Chinatown USA 2010. Determination in mind, Lee had her eyes set on Miss America, but the road to get there proved quite challenging. Crystal was crowned Miss San Francisco 2011, but placed in the Top 12 of that year’s Miss California competition. The following year, Lee was crowned Miss South Counties and had another attempt at reaching the national stage, but came extremely close as she was runner up to 2012’s Miss California Leah Cecil. Lee’s persistence paid off on her third attempt as she was crowned Miss Silicon Valley and was on her way to compete for Miss California again in Fresno, where she was finally crowned Miss California 2013.

Throughout the years, several role models have influenced Lee for various reasons: Rose Chung, pageant director, for her ability to organize the community and mentor hundreds of young women across the SF Bay Area. Jan Yanehiro, broadcast journalist, for pioneering the Asian American face in the media. Lastly, Lee’s mother has always been a huge support for Crystal as she encouraged her to dream big, aim high, and work harder than she could have ever thought possible.

Oftentimes, people tend to think that pageantry is not a sport, but in fact it is more than a sport. It requires not only the physical and mental demands of a sport, but also includes developing  a mission for society or the community, showcasing a talent, and the ability to answer on the spot a question that could be extremely difficult, and most obviously, very stiff competition.

Entering a competition with a large pool of other competitors can be seemingly daunting knowing that the odds to place are slim and the stress unimaginable. How did Lee deal with the preliminaries? Well, Lee was faced with over 60 contestants at the Miss California competition, but at Miss America there were 52. With that being said, she wasn’t as stressed in the Miss America competition; however, Lee did have to increase her level of competitiveness because the caliber of competition was greater knowing she was up against the best from each state/territory. Nevertheless, Lee was mentally prepared to do her best, no matter who she was up against.

In an interesting twist of fate, another Crystal Lee from the state of Hawaii entered the picture. She was crowned Miss Chinatown Hawaii 2013 earlier this year and was eligible to move on and compete in the 2013 Miss Hawaii Organization program. In June, she was crowned Miss Hawaii 2013 and also competed in the Miss America Pageant. So with two Crystal Lees in the Miss America competition things must have been pretty interesting…, how well would they mesh.

MJ: Were you shocked/amazed/amused that you were competing against another Crystal Lee of Hawaii? How did you both get along?

CL: I found out a few weeks before I became Miss California and was thrilled to discover what a sweet, genuine girl she is. Interestingly enough, she was the contestant before me during preliminary competition so we sat next each other in the dressing room, and also stayed in the same hotel.

MJ: What was your platform and why did you chose that?

CL: I chose my platform, Women in S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for a few reasons: 1) it aligns with the Miss America mission to empower women and 2) it’s an issue that affects us all more than we realize. Young girls often think they’re less competent in science and math as the boys in their classes. As they grow up they tend to veer away from these majors, and it’s unfortunate because they lead to jobs that they need their perspectives, pay well, and solve crucial problems. Getting more Women in STEM would improve America’s industries. Everyone wins when we have more women leaning into these fields.

MJ: What was your talent and why did you choose that specific talent?

CL: I chose to perform a ballet en pointe piece called, “The Swan” and it depicts the final moments of a swan’s life. It’s a tragic and dramatic selection considering this was for the Miss America pageant, where most dancers chose high-energy, exuberant, and cheery talents. I wanted to share an experience of something deeper- the inevitable end that all creatures face, and the passion with which we cling on to life.

After a couple eliminations and after all the segments of competition, there left two standing. Both remaining in the competition were Asian American.

MJ: When Nina Davuluri and yourself were the last two contestants on the stage, what was going through your mind? Did that fact that both of you were Asian cross your mind as being a momentous part of history?

CL: In those final moments, I was focused on the announcement of results and didn’t think about us being Asian. We’ve had a Chinese-American in the Top 2 before, but perhaps not an Indian-American, which may have been why Nina said something about it. I’ve always thought of myself to be just as American as I am Asian. Our country has always been composed of immigrant backgrounds- whether or not your appearance reflects it. The order in which one’s forefathers arrived doesn’t make their descendants more or less American. But stepping out of the competition, I now realize what a huge step this is for all Asian Americans. I can’t wait for the day we have a Chinese-American Miss America. I hope she’s bilingual, too!

Although Lee did not take home the title of Miss America, she did become Miss America’s First Runner-Up. Following the competition, hateful comments were said over social media about the results of Miss America, what kind of effect did this have on Lee.

MJ: What is your response to all the negative and racial comments that were said about Miss America Nina Davuluri? Did you receive any racial comments as well?

CL: I haven’t received too many racial comments. I’m trying to be a lily pad this year- letting criticism roll right off like water off a lily pad. It’s sad that so many Americans don’t know how much they don’t know. It shows how far we have yet to go as a society. I’m glad the media publicly called out the perpetrators for their ignorance. It reinforces our commitment to acceptance and understanding.

Miss California Crystal Lee (4)MJ: Also being of Asian decent, what do you think it will take for Americans to be more unified and to put aside our differences?

CL: It will take time, and seeing movers and shakers of all ethnic backgrounds do great things. It’s easy to become complacent with the way things are, but the fact is we’re becoming a global world and the emerging generation seems more ready to put aside differences as we solve pressing problems. We need to encourage people of all backgrounds to step up and be leaders and role models. Once this becomes the norm, our so-called “differences” won’t seem so different after all.

Now that the Miss America Pageant had concluded, what lies on the horizon for Crystal and what was her overall experience with the Miss America Organization.

MJ: What’s next for you in the remaining year and/or years to follow?

CL: I plan to continue traveling throughout the state for appearances and making the most of my reign. I’ve heard this year flies by quickly so I’m already getting the ball rolling on a few exciting projects related to STEM in Silicon Valley. I ultimately want to work in technology/startups so this is fitting preparation for my career ahead.

MJ: What encouragement do you have for young girls and young women in America?

CL: I’d encourage more young women to compete in the Miss America program. It’s an incredible opportunity for personal growth, scholarship money, and tons of lifelong friends and benefits. You get what you choose to get out of it- and the best part is, it combines the controllable with the unpredictable! It’s the best life preparation.

MJ: How has the Miss America Pageant impacted your life?

CL: The Miss America program offers young women endless opportunities for growth, and the experience is unique for everyone who participates. The values of the Miss America crown are specific enough to give every contestant a concrete roadmap for how to be “ideal” yet broad enough for every woman to essentially write her own story. Through the 6 years I’ve spent in this program, I have won over $60,000 in scholarships, overcome my initial fear of public speaking, competed on national TV, made friends and mentors all over the nation, learned leadership and confidence, the list goes on…

MJ: What were a couple of memorable experiences that you have gained with the other representatives of Miss America?Miss California Crystal Lee (2)

CL: You might think the most memorable experiences would be the most well-documented ones (such as the telecast), but it’s actually the quiet moments that stand out most in my mind. The two weeks at Miss America are like being in a pressure cooker; we get to know each other really well because we’re together every waking moment. I’ll always remember how in awe I was hearing about the other girls’ community service projects. Miss South Carolina created a program to get more high school students applying to college. Miss Michigan, who lost her father when she was a child, has spent years helping other children cope with grief. I was really inspired by how committed these girls were to giving back.

MJ: What is something most people don’t realize about the Miss America pageant?

CL: We are essentially athletes. It’s just as mental as it is physical. Most onlookers think it’s all about how you look- but having been on the inside, let me tell you that how you think and how you act is equally important. At the national competition, every contestant is gorgeous and at her peak physical condition. Onstage, each girl can be as beautiful as the next. Where the judges select the winner is the interview. A magnetic personality and inner beauty takes you much farther than just having the prettiest face.

One thing that would stay with me from my interview with Lee was her philosophy on her overall character. “It’s important to always be presentable, to give others energy and respect, and to behave knowing that you represent something larger than just yourself.” Nevertheless, not only is Lee’s philosophy a great motto, but a selfless act we should all put into practice.

*Some portions of this interview has been omitted and order rearranged.

Follow me on Twitter at @MJPhotographySF or Facebook at www.facebook.com/mjphotographysf 

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SF Giants Chinese Heritage Night 2013

CYC members perform on the field for Chinese Heritage Night 2013.

CYC members perform on the field for Chinese Heritage Night 2013.

The San Francisco Giants played host Tuesday at AT&T Park for Chinese Heritage Night. Pre-game ceremonies started out wonderfully as the beautiful warm weather filled the park. On the field, the Community Youth Center (CYC) performed a drum routine with 20 percussionists while 15 youth were carrying a green orb followed by a 40ft long green snake in celebration of the “Year of the Snake”, this year’s Chinese New Year Zodiac year.

During the game, on the View Reserve level honoring Chinese Heritage Night guests who had purchased special tickets were allowed to receive a Collector’s Edition Giants themed “Year of the Snake” figurine. Partial ticket proceeds benefited local Chinese based charities.

In addition to the special give away for Chinese Heritage Night, in community partnership with the SF Giants were representatives of the SF Hep B Free campaign, whose purpose is to bring awareness to the community of the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and encourage those to get tested and vaccinated.

In support of the SF Hep B Free, local pageant title holders greeted and took pictures with fans. Some of the fans of these lovely ladies ranged from little youngsters to the elderly. It was fascinating to see the many smiles that these ladies brought to the ballpark.

Meanwhile, with all the hoopla of Chinese Heritage Night, the San Francisco Giants trailed the Colorado Rockies 6-2. The Giants scored two runs in the first two innings, while the Rockies were rocking Tim Lincecum by scoring five runs in the 2nd inning and then another in the 5th inning.

Bruce Bochy allowed Lincecum to pitch only 6 innings, giving Tim 7 strikeouts for the night. He allowed 6 total runs on 4 hits. However, the Chinese Zodiac Snake was going to bite back and benefit the SF Giants by bringing great luck and fortune as they would eventually turn things around.

The crowd came to life in the bottom of the 6th inning when the Giants picked up a base runner after Gregor Blanco was walked by Adam Ottavino. Immediately following, Hector Sanchez was walked also, moving Blanco to second base. On a wild pitch with Brandon Crawford batting, both runners then advanced to scoring position, but that wouldn’t matter because Crawford hit a three run homer to left field. A fourth run would come in as Hunter Pence singled to right allowing Nick Noonan to score. The Giants tied the Rockies 6-6 after the side was retired.

Two innings passed with no Rockies scoring. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Andres Torres doubles to right field. Angel Pagan next up at bat hits a single line drive to center field as Torres comes in to score. Marco Scutaro singles to left moving Pagan to 3rd. Next Pablo Sandoval singles scoring Pagan and moving Scutaro to 2nd. Hunter Pence lines out. Brandon Belt grounds into a force out to Sandoval at 2nd with Belt and Scutaro on the corners. Gregor Blanco with two outs on the board takes the chance with a bunt to first base, as it was going to roll foul, pitcher Wilton Lopez decides to play the ball and tries to throw out Blanco at 1st for the third out, but with no luck. Scutaro ends up scoring, while Belt moves to 2nd. Hector Sanchez strikes out swinging and the Giants take the lead 9-6.

In the top of the 9th inning, Sergio Romo with 4 saves this season entered the game for a save opportunity. Reid Brignac faced Romo first, but hits into a ground out as Romo puts him out at first base to Belt. Next two batters, Eric Young and Dexter Fowler strike out swinging. Romo picks up his 5th save of the season and leads MLB in saves so far. Final score: Giants 9 – Rockies 6. The Giants picked up their largest deficit (4-runs) come-from-behind victory since Sept 11th, 2012 vs. Colorado. The Giants win also marked the eighth-straight victory over the Rockies, which is the longest current winning streak for any major league team against a current division rival. Lincecum luckily gets by with a no-decision as Reliever Santiago Casilla picks up his 1st win of the season. Rockies Matt Belisle picks up his 1st loss of the season.

The SF Giants win on Chinese Heritage Night leaves the Giants in a 3-way tie for 1st in the NL West with a record of 5-3. They are tied with the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although the season is just beginning, it looks very promising for the SF Giants to get back into the playoffs and then hopefully onto the World Series for a repeat.

Follow me on Twitter at @MJPhotographySF or Facebook at www.facebook.com/mjphotographysf

Mother and daughter at the game with their “Year of the Snake” bobblehead.

Mother and daughter at the game with their “Year of the Snake” bobblehead.

Community Youth Center (CYC) youth perform on the drums.

Community Youth Center (CYC) youth perform on the drums.

The CYC youth drum in unison.

The CYC youth drum in unison.

The CYC youth carry a 40ft. long snake while chasing a green orb.

The CYC youth carry a 40ft. long snake while chasing a green orb.

Lou Seal shows off his two World Series rings.

Lou Seal shows off his two World Series rings.

The Collector’s Edition Giants themed “Year of the Snake” figurines.

The Collector’s Edition Giants themed “Year of the Snake” figurines.

The first 20,000 fans at the game received a promotional 2012 World Series snow globe.

The first 20,000 fans at the game received a promotional 2012 World Series snow globe.

The SF Hep B Free table with brand ambassadors and local pageant title holders.

The SF Hep B Free table with brand ambassadors and local pageant title holders.

Local pageant title holders pose with SF Giants towels.

Local pageant title holders pose with SF Giants towels.

Tim Lincecum on the mound allows for 4 hits and 6 runs. Lincecum strikes out 7 for the night.

Tim Lincecum on the mound allows for 4 hits and 6 runs. Lincecum strikes out 7 for the night.

 

Marco Scutaro’s hitting groove is coming back as he hits 3 for 4.

Marco Scutaro’s hitting groove is coming back as he hits 3 for 4.

Hunter Pence with his seventh game hitting streak.

Hunter Pence with his seventh game hitting streak.

 

Brandon Crawford is welcomed home after hitting a three run homer, which marks his second career home run at AT&T Park (coming on his 363rd plate appearance at AT&T).

Brandon Crawford is welcomed home after hitting a three run homer, which marks his second career home run at AT&T Park (coming on his 363rd plate appearance at AT&T).

Santiago Casilla picks up his 1st win of the season.

Santiago Casilla picks up his 1st win of the season.

Sergio Romo picks up his 5th save of the season.

Sergio Romo picks up his 5th save of the season.

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58th Annual North Beach Festival

North Beach Festival 2012

The 58th Annual North Beach Festival took to the streets of historic North Beach, also known as “Little Italy”, this past weekend with Saturday being the extreme scorcher of the two day festival. The festival occupied the busiest streets of the district with Columbus Street, this year, completely closed off to through traffic from Broadway to Green Streets with the overflow of festival-goers inhabiting Washington Square to relax and enjoy the company of friends and the weather.

The festival enjoyed its greatest weather on Saturday with many people taking to the streets in shorts, skirts, dresses, and of course sunglasses. People enjoyed the festival while grabbing drinks at the many beer gardens scattered throughout the festival. The largest beer and wine garden was at the Green Street Stage where guests inhabited the normally parking lot by day location. Here guests mingled with each other while enjoying a beverage or two with live performances by upbeat bands. The Filbert Street Stage was a smaller scaled stage with a different calmer atmosphere with bands that played soothing jazz.

Similar to other street festivals in San Francisco, the streets were filled with arts and crafts booths, sponsor booths, food and drink booths, and live music. However, what sets this festival apart from the others in San Francisco is the street chalk artwork that takes place at Grant Ave. and Vallejo Street. This year five artists constructed chalk art with many onlookers watching the artwork being created on Saturday to the final finishing touches by the festival’s end on Sunday. Organizers of the festival also allowed the public to take part in chalk art on the sidewalk for a small nominal fee.

Also observed during the festival is the annual “Blessing of the Animals” held by the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi. Hundreds of people and their animals occupied the building over the course of two days with Fr. Gregory Coiro presiding over the animal blessings.

Having been to this festival several times, a trip to the North Beach would not be complete without having tried pizza from the area. I had some this year and it was good. I won’t tell you where, so you’ll have to discover it on your own. If you want some delicious pizza, come out to this district and try the different styles that this area has to offer. Pizza comes in all sorts, thin crust, cracker crust, thick crust, and also Sicilian styled pizza. I haven’t come across a deep dish pizza in the North Beach, but then again it’s not a traditional type of pizza originating from Italy. Deep dish is synonymous with Chicago and though there are some deep dish pizza joints in San Francisco, I think this district has yet to see one. There are rumors though that one will be coming soon.

Until next time, Ciao.

(If you like this post and would like to see more photographs please like and follow me on my Facebook page)

North Beach Festival 2012 (1)

Festival booths line Columbus Street.

North Beach Festival 2012 (2)

The crowded Grant Avenue facing south.

North Beach Festival 2012 (3)

Looking north on Grant Avenue at the North Beach Festival.

North Beach Festival 2012 (4)

A crowded Washington Square.

North Beach Festival 2012 (5)

Quest brings his slacklining to the park and allows others to try the sport.

North Beach Festival 2012 (6)

The jam packed Green Street Stage on Saturday afternoon.

North Beach Festival 2012 (7)

Columbus Street facing the Transamerica Pyramid.

North Beach Festival 2012 (8)

One of many Italian flag painted poles in the North Beach.

North Beach Festival 2012 (9)

Customers compare their choice colored t-shirts.

North Beach Festival 2012 (10)

Chalk artists design artwork on the streets of North Beach.

North Beach Festival 2012 (11)

Amos Goldbaum captures the old Embarcadero Freeway on a t-shirt. Does anybody remember this freeway pre-1989 earthquake?

North Beach Festival 2012 (12)

Can you believe this is her real hair?

North Beach Festival 2012 (13)

North Beach Festival is enjoyed by all. He particularly enjoys the No Stopping signs on Columbus Avenue.

North Beach Festival 2012 (14)

Two lovely ladies enjoy their puppets.

North Beach Festival 2012 (15)

A trip to North Beach is not complete without taking home a pizza.

North Beach Festival 2012 (16)

Two people enjoy a game of chess outside of a cafe at the North Beach Festival.

North Beach Festival 2012 (17)

Father Gregory Coiro blesses animals inside the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi.

North Beach Festival 2012 (18)

SF Giants are represented at the North Beach Festival

North Beach Festival 2012 (19)

Two ladies enjoy gummy worms while selling hats at the North Beach Festival.

North Beach Festival 2012 (20)

Italian inspired clothing and tattoos.

North Beach Festival 2012 (21)

Jammin' on the electric guitar.

North Beach Festival 2012 (22)

Gettin' down with the music.

North Beach Festival 2012 (23)

Playin' jazz with Carol Doda in the background before she sings.

North Beach Festival 2012 (24)

The North Beach Festival is a family affair.

North Beach Festival 2012 (25)

The completed chalk artworks on Vallejo Street.

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Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary Celebration

Golden Gate Bridge 75

The Golden Gate Bridge celebrated 75 years on May 27th. A bridge that was said can never be built because of various circumstances started construction in the early 1930s and opened on May 27, 1937. The bridge is seen as one of the “Wonders of the World” and is painted with a coat of International Orange paint to help preserve the steel cables and structure from corrosion.

The festival for the bridge was similar to that of a street festival, but held at Marina Green and Crissy Field. Unlike the 50th Anniversary where people were allowed to walk on the bridge, the 75th Anniversary prohibited vehicle lane closures on the bridge for pedestrian use. It was reported that the bridge actually dropped 6ft due to the excess weight. For the bridge to keep its structural integrity it was said that bridge walks of that size and magnitude will no longer occur. Instead the alternative was to hold a festival in the bridge’s honor instead. This year the festival was full of music, food, bridge history and education, corporate vendors, an amazing fireworks show, and much more.

One of the most educational and touching displays that had the most impact on me was one that displayed shoes and chalk outlined shoe prints. The display was to encourage awareness of “jumpers” and to petition for putting up a net under the bridge to prevent jumpers from jumping and to catch them as a safety net. Volunteers and some family members of victims for this educational display wore black T-shirts that displayed the number 1558. That number is the number of victims that came to the bridge as to find a way out of life. Of the 1558 jumping victims, a little over 30 survived the fall. Each pair of shoes represented a jumper. Of the pairs of shoes, some were actual pairs of shoes given to display as a remembrance by the victim’s loved ones and the other remaining shoes were just purely symbolic. The chalk outlined foot prints represented those that jumped and their remains were never recovered.

The representation of the “1558″ display reminded me of a 2006 documentary that was filmed and written by Eric Steel entitled “The Bridge”. Where he interviews family and friends of the victims and even captures footage of such a tragedy. The bridge has been seen to be a magnet for people to come, but I would never recommend to take the easy way out. There’s always help and someone that can help with your pain. All I can say is, “Don’t do it. There’s so much to live for, even though things may not be clear for you in your exact moment of trouble or suffering.” Help is always just around the corner, you just have to look.

On a much happier note, two main stages, one at Marina Green and the other at Crissy Field, booked musical artists that entertained guests from 11am to 9:30pm, with a break for fireworks and the Mickey Hart Band to finish off the festival at 10pm at the Crissy Field Stage. Food vendors were located throughout the festival. Lines were extremely long for hot food items; therefore, patience is a virtue.

The fireworks show was one of the best shows that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. One thing, however, that I disliked about the show was that integrity of the show was not concentrated in one location on the water. I, along with other media, assumed that the show would be contained at the bridge and under the bridge. Little did we know was that the show would spread out along the waterfront. What a horrible decision to do that because it makes it much more difficult to capture the show on camera and video camera because no one ever wants to reposition a camera back and forth and adjust camera settings throughout the show.

Although constantly changing camera position/direction and settings bothered me greatly, I’ve seen some amazing video and photos of others on the internet, but even they had the opportunity to only capture a small number of money shots. I, particularly, had a hard time because the one thing that I feared most to happen had happened. My camera battery died right at the beginning of the show and I had to put in a replacement. The next thing that I found to be extremely difficult was to juggle between two cameras to do videography and photography at the same time. This is a no-no. Never do this. I was so excited for this fireworks show that I wanted to capture every single moment by myself. It’s just way too complicated to do two things at the same time. Lesson learned.

Overall the fireworks and light show was phenominal. The weather sure cooperated as there was no heavy fog and it was windy enough to blow the smoke away. This show allowed for me to experience for the first time the bridge lights turned completely off, with the exception of the red aerial lights atop the towers and cables sections. Several other features of the show seemed to amaze me, like seeing a downward stream of falling fireworks that created a wall of fire underneath the center span of the bridge to the water. The colored spot lights moving all around on the bridge and on a couple of boats added more drama to the show. Lastly, the traditional fireworks display was spectacular with so much color and various variety of shapes. I love pyrotechnics.

Many congratulations to the Golden Gate Bridge as it celebrated it’s 75th Anniversary. If you thought that this festival was amazing, I wonder how much more grand the 100th anniversary will be. Hope to see you all there in 25 years.

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Golden Gate Bridge 75 (1)

Golden Gate Bridge 75 (2)

Golden Gate Bridge 75 (3)

Golden Gate Bridge 75 (4)

Golden Gate Bridge 75 (5)

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Golden Gate Bridge 75 (28)

Golden Gate Bridge 75 (29)

Golden Gate Bridge 75 (30)

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San Francisco Carnaval Grand Parade 2012

Carnaval Grand Parade

The Carnaval Grand Parade has to got to be one of the most colorful vibrant parades out there. This lively festival of colors took to the streets on Sunday. The weather for the day was overcast, but thank goodness that the rain stayed away and the harsh sun was behind those clouds. Temperature was warm, yet breezy and chilly. Those of you that are from San Francisco know what I mean.

The parade started off promptly at 9:30am and lasted for almost three hours. The streets were crowded and full of people eagerly waiting for the festivities. People brought their video cameras and photo cameras to capture this momentous occasion. Children lined the front-lines of the crowds and surprisingly the onlookers were tame with no pushing and shoving.

The parade had units representing countries from all over. Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean islands, and even Africa showed off their culture with song and dance. Streets were lined up with children in ethnic costumes and men and women practically stole the show with elaborate costumes as well. Crazy as it may seem other than the Bay to Breakers, women were practically half naked with boas, feathers, hats, and thongs. This is one of a couple of festivals that display a lot of skin, conservatively speaking.

Highlights of the parade would have to be seeing the entertainers and participants just loving what they were doing and smiling. It’s always a true inspiration to have something in this city that promotes such laughter and joy. Must be something in our water.

Following the parade, the procession led the crowd followers near to the Carnaval festival site that was on Harrison Street. If you missed out on the parade, be sure to check it out next year as it’s always a great time.

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Carnaval Grand Parade (1)

Carnaval Grand Parade (2)

Grand Marshall for the parade was a singer from Beach Blanket Babylon

Carnaval Grand Parade (4)

The Grand Marshall Float

Carnaval Grand Parade (3)

Carnaval Grand Parade (5)

Carnaval Grand Parade (6)

2012 King Roberto & Queen Ashlee

Carnaval Grand Parade (7)

Carnaval Grand Parade (8)

Carnaval Grand Parade (9)

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Carnaval Grand Parade (12)

The famous Leonard Oats Cable Car Ringing Champion of many years

Carnaval Grand Parade (13)

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Carnaval Grand Parade (38)

Carnaval Grand Parade (39)

Carnaval Grand Parade (40)

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101st Zazzle Bay To Breakers

Bay To Breakers 2012

The 101st Bay To Breakers hit the streets of San Francisco on May 20th starting from the San Francisco Bay to the breakers at Ocean Beach. The 12k race brought in thousands upon thousands of people either running for sport or leisure.

The Women’s competition started first with the Men’s competition starting soon thereafter. The Zazzle Bay To Breakers Men’s winner is Sammy Kitwara of Kenya (34:40.5) and the Women’s winner is Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia (39:02.4).

Although, many love to participate in this race one thing that Bay To Breakers runners/walkers dislike are the rules and regulations prohibiting alcohol. Although what the authorities and race officials have good intent behind their justifications, it was really difficult to enforce. There were checkpoints throughout the race, but how can you stop miles of people. From my estimates about 500,000 people attended the race, but that’s just my judgment considering 3 hours worth of people passed me as I was posted at one spot. Now try to enforce a rule and not expect mass chaos.

The most entertaining thing about this cross-city race is the costume aspect. Participants that run or walk the race for leisure have the opportunity to basically put on whatever their hearts desire or not wear anything at all. This is one of the few exceptions that the authorities in San Francisco look the other way and look the other way they literally do. This year I think there was a record number of nakedness. The ratio of naked men to naked women was about 15:1, something I had to estimate because I surely wasn’t counting them one by one.

While photographing this race, the biggest challenge I had was trying to find the most creative costumes/themes and the ideas behind them. I found that this year was one of the best to date. This year seemed to be more entertaining because the costumes were compared to other years more creative and ingenious. I often found myself laughing at just the pure wackiness of things. People in San Francisco are just weird. Well, I can’t blame all San Franciscan’s, a lot of runners come from out of town too. Let’s just say everybody is weird.

Next year, I might tough it out and walk with the crowd through the entire race and document my experience. This is a great race that when everybody is given the chance to let loose, they let loose. Anyhow, onto the photos of wackiness, the  descriptions are below each photo. These are just the highlights of my race experience.

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Bay To Breakers 2012 (1)

The sea of runners are not far behind the competitive Men's Heat

Bay To Breakers 2012 (3)

San Francisco Giants Tim Lincecum takes a warm up run before having to pitch against the Oakland Athletics at AT&T Park or this is his twin. You decide.

Where's Waldo? Here he is juggling while jogging

Where's Waldo? Here he is juggling while jogging

I laughed out loud as I saw this woman run by, she laughed too.

I laughed out loud as I saw this woman run by, she laughed too.

Who says tacos can't limbo?

Who says tacos can't limbo?

Tribute to the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th Anniversary

Tribute to the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th Anniversary

Stop ... Hammertime!

Stop ... Hammertime!

This is the best Smurfette outfit I've ever seen

This is the best Smurfette outfit I've ever seen

Green Eggs and Ham anyone?

Green Eggs and Ham anyone?

These Muppets must be hot

These Muppets must be hot

I got no answer from these guys when I asked them to pose, guess they're just mimes.

I got no answer from these guys when I asked them to pose, guess they're just mimes.

Pretty hilarious beer pong group, the whole table set soon followed after them

Pretty hilarious beer pong group, the whole table set soon followed after them

Poor Kermit, another group right after had Miss Piggy in a soup pot.

Poor Kermit, another group right after had Miss Piggy in a soup pot.

These Baywatchers ended up walking to become Breakerwatchers

These Baywatchers ended up walking to become Breakerwatchers

Who remembers the game Operation?

Who remembers the game Operation?

Patriotism

Patriotism

These muscle men lifted these weights with such ease.

These muscle men lifted these weights with such ease.

Hotdog on a stick anyone? Thanks for the snack ladies

Hotdog on a stick anyone? Thanks for the snack ladies

It's about that time for High School Prom, although this couple is reliving a moment from the 80s

It's about that time for High School Prom, although this couple is reliving a moment from the 80s

Sushi Combo anyone? This was one of my favorite groups

Sushi Combo anyone? This was one of my favorite groups

Construction crew for the Golden State Warriors Arena?

Construction crew for the Golden State Warriors Arena?

SNL's Ambiguously Gay Duo

SNL's Ambiguously Gay Duo

Michael Jacksons

Michael Jacksons

I'm glad my real pageant friends don't pose like these Grand Supreme ladies do. The pose is dead on and just so funny it's true

I'm glad my real pageant friends don't pose like these Grand Supreme ladies do. The pose is dead on and just so funny it's true

These busy bees pollinate this flower in Golden Gate Park

These busy bees pollinate this flower in Golden Gate Park

These censored women had to be escorted by two bodyguards, too bad there were a lot of uncensored things I saw that day

These censored women had to be escorted by two bodyguards, too bad there were a lot of uncensored things I saw that day

These animals can be cute, but ferocious
These animals can be cute, but ferocious
Good Credit No Problem, Bad Credit No Problem. The potential disaster coming? Big Problem

Good Credit No Problem, Bad Credit No Problem. The potential disaster coming? Big Problem

GO GIANTS!

GO GIANTS!

Anyone up for a game of Rock Paper Scissors?

Anyone up for a game of Rock Paper Scissors?

Pac-man, Ghosts, and Fruit altogether in harmony, then after the photo Pac-Man ate them all.

Pac-man, Ghosts, and Fruit altogether in harmony, then after the photo Pac-Man ate them all.

Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys

SNL's Spartan Cheerleaders or reliving their San Lorenzo Valley Cougars cheerleading days.

SNL's Spartan Cheerleaders or reliving their San Lorenzo Valley Cougars cheerleading days.

This guy came again with the same jersey as last year.

This guy came again with the same jersey as last year.

At least he reminded me that the year is 2012 as he went.

At least he reminded me that the year is 2012 as he went and we will look forward to 2013 and the 102nd Bay To Breakers

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Asian Pacific American Heritage Awards Ceremony 2012

APA Awards 2012

The Asian Pacific American Heritage Awards Ceremony took place at the elegant Herbst Theatre located within the War Memorial Building on Van Ness Avenue on Monday. A huge turnout of guests attended this yearly event that kicks off Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in San Francisco. San Francisco May0r Ed Lee made it official in San Francisco by signing a proclamation in the midst of SF politicians, dignitaries, sponsors, and citizens of the city and neighboring cities.

The program started off with a the singing of the National Anthem by the SF Gay Men’s Choir. Emceeing the program was KPIX’s Thuy Vu, who started in the San Francisco’s CBS affiliate as a news anchor/reporter, but now co-hosts CBS San Francisco’s “Eye on the Bay”. The program highlighted many of the local sponsors that made this whole program possible, community leaders that also helped put together the program, various Asian community groups that performed traditional dances, the awards ceremony, and the surprise reveal of a wonderfully made birthday cake for Mayor Ed Lee.

Following the program, a lengthy list of food and drink sponsors hosted tastings from their businesses in the Green Room and the balcony that overlooks Van Ness Ave. and City Hall. More information about the event can be seen at www.apasf.org

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APA Awards 2012 (1)

SF Gay Men's Choir sings the National Anthem

APA Awards 2012 (2)

CBS San Francisco's "Eye on the Bay" Thuy Vu emcees the program

APA Awards 2012 (3)

SF Mayor Ed Lee signs the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month proclamation

APA Awards 2012 (4)

APA Awards 2012 (5)

APA Awards 2012 (6)

APA Awards 2012 (7)

APA Awards 2012 (8)

APA Awards 2012 (9)

Emalyn Lapus receives the Community Leadership Award

APA Awards 2012 (10)

"4C the Power" receives the Community Impact Award

APA Awards 2012 (11)

APA Awards 2012 (12)

Cute kid comes out from the center of the group punching and kicking

Cute kid comes out from the center of the group punching and kicking

SF Mayor Ed Lee is surprised with a wonderful birthday cake

SF Mayor Ed Lee is surprised with a wonderful birthday cake

SF Mayor Ed Lee blows out the candles on his cake

SF Mayor Ed Lee blows out the candles on his cake

SF Mayor Ed Lee laughs as he realizes that the candles are "trick candles"

SF Mayor Ed Lee laughs as he realizes that the candles are "trick candles"

SF Mayor Ed Lee takes the first cut into his cake

SF Mayor Ed Lee takes the first cut into his cake

SF Mayor Ed Lee and KPIX's Thuy Vu dance on stage with the performers dressed in traditional Asian ethnic wear

SF Mayor Ed Lee and KPIX's Thuy Vu dance on stage with the performers dressed in traditional Asian ethnic wear

SF Mayor Ed Lee's cake before it is cut and served to APA Awards guests

SF Mayor Ed Lee's cake before it is cut and served to APA Awards guests

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2012 Chinese New Year Parade

Chinese New Year Parade

The San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Southwest Airlines brought together a fantastic parade for the “Year of the Dragon”. There were lots of lions and dragons present at this parade. It was great to see so many kids dressed up as dragons and if it weren’t scary enough, there were kids in a whole bunch of panda hats, I think it’s baseball season coming up. If you don’t understand what that means, well Pablo Sandoval who plays for the San Francisco Giants is nicknamed, “Panda”. I digress, the parade started promptly at 5:15pm and completed it’s final journey down Kearny Street to the parade finish at about 8:30pm.

The parade featured many of San Francisco and the Bay Area’s drill teams, marching bands, lion dance groups, kungfu studios, schools from K-12, major and minor sponsors of the parade, Miss Chinatown USA 2012 and her court with the other contestants also, and several dragons that zig-zagged through the whole entire parade route.

The grand finale was simply amazing. I must have choked on so much smoke and black powder at the lighting of two huge ropes of firecrackers. I even got hit in the face several times by flying casings, I guess it’s wise to have eye protection, but I only had ear plugs. The finale finished off with several lions atop poles that were over 10 feet in height, two huge lion heads that had to be held by more than 5 people each, a few 20-yard dragons, and one large dragon that seemed to be almost 50 yards in length and held up by about 30-40people.

An estimated 1.5million have attended the parade, but the number is not exact. According to San Francisco’s Police Chief, Greg Suhr, he stated that there were 1million SFPD stickers and those were all passed out therefore there were at least 1million people. Usually there is a more accurate count, but I guess it became a little ambiguous this year. Nevertheless, there were lots of people who lined the streets on a mild to slightly chilly night. Fortunately, there was no rain this year and having clear skies is probably one of the best things that could happen.

Chinese New Year Parade Finale

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Miss Chinatown USA 2012

Miss Chinatown USA 2012 Pageant

The Miss Chinatown USA Pageant sponsored by the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce crowned Steffi Hu from Sugar Land, TX as this year’s Miss Chinatown USA 2012 on February 4th. The Miss Chinatown USA Pageant put on it’s 55th pageant at the Palace of Fine Arts and this lunar year marks the Year of the Dragon. The pageant theme for this year was Imperial Splendor – Promising Dreams. The ladies were judged based on four categories: Introduction and Poise, Fitness and Form, Talent, and Question and Answer.

The program highlighted the many talents that contestants from around the country had to offer. Contestants came from near and far to participate in this pageant, from as far west as Hawaii and as far east as New York. The Queen will receive a $10,000 scholorship in honor of winning the prestigous title and will be making several appearances in the community and throughout the week with her court and the rest of the contestants until the Chinese New Year Parade that will round out the week. During the parade, all of the beautiful contestants will be on parade floats waving to the crowds and hopefully will be able to inspire other young women to become representatives of their community.

The results of the program are as follows:

  • Miss Chinatown USA 2012 / Steffi Hu / Sugar Land, TX
  • Miss Chinese Chamber of Commerce/First Princess / Amanda Lee / San Francisco, CA
  • Miss San Francisco Chinatown / Snow Feng / Fremont, CA
  • Second Princess / Jenny Chin / San Francisco, CA
  • Third Princess / Elizabeth Leong / San Mateo, CA
  • Fourth Princess / Si Liang / Flushing, NY
  • Miss Talent / Steffi Hu / Sugar Land, TX

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