Thurston County welcomed the Year of the Rooster on Saturday with dancing boys, ornate yellow and red lion costumes, a meal of dollar bills and a booming drum beat.
The Lion Dance, performed by dancers from Olympia’s Lien-Hoa Buddist Temple, is a 28-year tradition, intended to chase away bad luck and bring positive energy for the new year, said Son Tran. The dance team visited four businesses in West Olympia and Lacey — two salons and two restaurants.
“Mostly we do it to keep the tradition,” Tran said, “and everyone has fun.”
The last dance of the day, at the Emperor’s Palace on Martin Way, began in the restaurant’s lobby. Four boys crouched under two lion costumes, as other boys played symbols and a huge drum. A smiling Buddha danced along.
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The lions wove through the restaurant as happy customers snapped photos. They made their way outside, where they ate dollar bills and lettuce.
“They must be vegan lions,” Tran joked.
The lions occasionally paused to switch legs, giving several boys the chance to perform.
The dance ended with one lion standing on the other’s back, unfurling a long, scrolled banner.
This year, 16 boys participated in the lion dance. Dancers start off as the lion’s back legs, and the more experienced dancers act as the front legs and head.
“As the older boys turn 18 and go to college, the younger boys move up,” Tran said. “That’s the way we’ve been doing it for 28 years.”