Celebrating the Year of the Dog

Academy students take to the parade route with their artistic creations


A camera person from a local news team films the Academy’s Year of the Dog float as it passes through Union Square. Photo by Bob Toy.

It may have been chillier than usual outside, but that didn’t stop Academy of Art University students and the additional hundreds of thousands of people from lining the streets for the 61st annual Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade presented by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the Year of the Dog. 

For months, students and instructors from the Schools of Fine Art – Sculpture, Illustration, Acting and Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media worked to complete the Academy’s 18-foot float that wound its way through the Financial District, Union Square and Chinatown on Saturday, Feb. 24, as part of the two-and-a-half-hour parade. 

The float was on the parade route with 20 other colorful and decorative floats from sponsors, including Amazon, Golden State Warriors, Salesforce and, of course, Southwest Airlines, along with an array of lion dancers, flag bearers and marching bands. Among the floats were San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell and actress Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) who served as this year’s parade grand marshal. 

Decked out in red sweatshirts adorned with the Academy’s logo, students sat mesmerized in bleachers on Kearny Street as they watched the parade pass by. Not only did the students bear with the low temperature to enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the largest celebrations of Lunar New Year outside of China, they wanted to support their fellow students and see the Academy’s float. 

After waiting for more than an hour, the students finally got to see the Academy’s float pass by, at which point they broke into excited cheers as they waved at their peers that were participating in the parade.


Acting students danced and cheered as the passed by the crowds waiting along the parade route. Photo by Mateo Tayamen.


Students from the Schools of Acting and Illustration pose with the Academy’s float prior to the start of the parade. Pictured: Raven Miyamoto, Hayley Becker, “Skip” In Cheng Zeng, Priscila Pineda, Chris Henderson, Mariah Moore and Domenic Salvadore. Photo by Bob Toy.


Metal fabrication instructor David Sekoll was in attendance to see his students’ hard work come to fruition at the parade. Photo by Bob Toy.

“It’s amazing,” said 19-year-old photography student Allison Sowle. “Seeing everyone come together like this is really awesome, even though it’s cold.”

A giant metal-frame dog, welded by students of School of Fine Art – Sculpture instructor David Sekoll’s metal fabrication class, sat at the front of the Academy’s float decorated with fabric and gold ribbon emulating dog hair. The instructor was also in the crowd that evening, and shared that it was a touching moment for him to see his students’ hard work come to fruition. 

“It’s awesome to be a part of it and see it,” said Sekoll. “I am very proud of my students.” 

Atop of the float were acting students who cheered and danced while holding some of the many illustrated dogs of Chinese descent. Walking behind the float were additional acting students as well as some of the illustration students who helped create the dogs displayed on the Academy’s float. All of the participants wore a special Chinese New Year sweatshirt that featured the dog they were holding on the front of it.

The students danced and waved to the crowd as music composed by music production student Jia Shi blasted from the float’s speakers. 

“I loved it,” said Natali Gallardo, a second-year photography student, after seeing the float. “All the different colors were great. We waited a long time to see [the float], and it was worth it.”

The parade concluded with the Golden Dragon (“Gum Lung”). This year’s Golden Dragon was 288-feet-long and was transported along the parade route by over 180 men and women from the martial arts group White Crane.


Academy parade participants celebrated a fun night at the post-parade dinner at the New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown. Pictured: Brianne Ruth, Aliyah Rosario, Raven Miyamoto, Mariah Moore, Chris Henderson, Yutong “Maggie” Tao and Domenic Salvadore. Photo by Bob Toy.

Following nearly three hours of walking, waving and dancing, the Academy students that took part in this year’s parade spoke about their experience as they unwound at the post-parade dinner hosted at the New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown.

“It was so exciting,” said Hayley Becker, 19, a first-year acting student. “It was so great to see all the people smiling because of our float.”

Becker also shared that it was a blast to hang out with her classmates outside of the classroom. 

“It was so fun to do this with the people I see in class every day,” she said.

Sitting next to Becker was first-year acting student Daniela Medina, 23, who commented that aside from how fun the experience was, she was glad to see her school honoring diversity.

“It’s really great to see people of all different cultures participate in something together,” said Medina. “It means a lot.”

Waiting for some hot tea to warm his hands was third-semester acting student In Cheng Zeng, 20. Being from China, Zeng said that he was proud to be a part of something that honored his heritage in the United States.

“[The parade] felt very familiar, like I was at home,” said Zeng. “I saw a lot of things similar to what I’d see in my country.”

The students laughed as they reminisced about the experience and discussed the current semester of school. When asked if they would participate in the Chinese New Year Parade next year, every single student responded with a resounding yes.


For more information on how to get involved with next year’s Chinese New Year Parade float, please contact Bob Toy at