Celebrating the Year of the Rooster

Students and faculty showcased the Academy’s rooster-centric float during this year’s Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade


Academy of Art University Year of the Rooster float at this year’s Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade. Photo by Bob Toy.

Academy of Art University’s the Year of the Rooster float lit up downtown San Francisco on Saturday, Feb. 11, during the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade, a celebration that dates back to the 1860s. Dancing lions, Chinese acrobats, stilt walkers, marching bands, and the Golden Dragon wrapped around Union Square, Chinatown and the Financial District, drawing thousands of spectators for a Lunar New Year spectacle. On a weekend of rare sunny weather, the firecrackers were popping, children were smiling and even live roosters were making an appearance.

This is my first time being this close to the ground [for the] Chinese New Year Parade. I’ve seen it on TV, but to be here at the pageantry is very exciting,” said B.A. communications and media technologies student Terrell Butler. "The Academy float was off the hook, shout out to Bob Toy! It was art that fit right in with the rest of these floats. I wish I wasn’t graduating so I could be on it next year.”

For months, students and faculty had been working on the float, costumes and musical number under the leadership of Academy of Art University Publications and Special Project Manager Bob Toy. The illuminated float featured the theme of this year’s Chinese zodiac sign, the rooster and characters of double happiness. It was predominantly red, which symbolizes good fortune and joy in Chinese culture. The rooster sculpture was welded together, made of metal wire, and covered with LED lights. The dancers wore special parade sweatshirts, rainbow feather boas, and masks painted by faculty of the School of Fine Art Camille Lyons. Overall, the Academy float was an impressive sight, which featured a spectrum of vibrant colors.


(L–R) Our student performers: Aliyah Rosario, Chance Howard, Sarah Hathaway and Theresa Nguy. Photo by Bob Toy.


The Academy’s Year of the Rooster float and performers on the parade route. Photo by Allan Pineda.

"I think it's great that students have the chance to get involved with the community,” said B.F.A. 3-D animation and environmental modeling student Theresa Phan Nguy, who was also the fourth princess of Miss Chinatown USA 2016. "Last year I was in the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and I am excited to represent the Academy this year. It's also an excellent opportunity to build connections with other students from multiple majors."

B.F.A. School of Acting students Aliyah Rosario and Sarah Hathaway were two of the rooster performers that were dancing and waving to the onlookers. Growing up in San Francisco, Rosario, who also participated last year, decided to come back because it had become a tradition for her to watch the festivities. Being a student at the Academy, she could finally be a part of the float. 

"What's great about being in the School of Acting is you have opportunities to participate in an event like this where you can be creative and imaginative, and mostly you get to have fun, that's all that matters, which is totally worth the day,” said Hathaway.

"This is my first year in [San Francisco], and I miss my home," said B.F.A. motion pictures and television student Zeng Qiyizin, who came with his friend Leslie Nazquez, a B.F.A. graphic design student. "I am glad there is an activity like this, so I can celebrate my culture even when I am away from my country."


The Academy’s rooster sculpture helped light up downtown San Francisco during this year’s parade. Photo by Allan Pineda.


Academy of Art University students cheer on the float during this year’s parade. Photo by Bob Toy.

"I used WeChat to send pictures to my friends back home, and they agreed that it is actually better to see the parade here than in China," said M.A. communication and media technologies student Grace Niu. “We stopped having parades during Chinese New Year and we ceased using firecrackers because the government wants to control the amount of air pollution.”

The annual festival indeed is famous for its elaborate scenery. The Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco has been named as one of the top 10 parades in the world by the International Festival and Events Association and the biggest of its kind outside of Asia. Over 100 vendors and organizations joined the parade, which helps to strengthen the community and bring people together.

Academy of Art University would like to congratulate and thank all of the wonderful volunteers who helped with this collaboration project. Thank you to Bob Toy, David Sekoll, Camille Lyons, Stephen Lyons, Shi Jia, Mateo Tayamen, Chingyao Chang, Roylander Williams Jr., Peiling Shi, Hongyang Zhu, Katerina Salsman, Aliyah Rosario, Chance Howard, Sarah Hathaway and Theresa Nguy.