The Bok Kai Festival and parade marks its 140th year this weekend in downtown Marysville, and organizers are celebrating the opening of a museum to honor the contributions of Chinese immigrants during the Gold Rush.
Four years ago, Heather Young, the project manager for the museum, began a fundraising effort to renovate an old brick building adjacent to the town's Chinese temple. The area’s residents with Chinese ancestry thought it was important.
"It was the third-largest Chinese population during the California Gold Rush when all of the Chinese immigrants started coming over in search for gold and better lives,” Young said. “I think because the Chinese community is dwindling and it's very small nowadays, it's even more important."
The building had been the storage site for hundreds of artifacts, but none were displayed for safety concerns. Bricks that had not been painted over the years were slowly turning to dust. Contractors told the organizers the red clay bricks were probably not fired correctly back in the mid 1800s. A $50,000 fundraising effort paid to restore the bricks and to establish the museum.
One of the display items will be a dragon that was first used in the parade and shown at World’s Fairs. Young says the dragon brought people together 140 years ago and will do so again.
“We hope to really kind of open the door to discussion and learning and enlightenment about something not a lot of people know about which was the Chinese part in Marysville and getting it started,.” Young said.
The Bok Kai Festival and the Dixon May Fair parade are among the oldest annual parades in the state.
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