2015 Archive: Crews prepare for Chinese New Year Parade in SF

(2015 Archive of Chinese New Year Parade) - Float makers and KTVU Fox 2 engineers were working around the clock Friday as they prepare for the annual Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco.

"If you've never been to Chinese New Year it's magic," said master float builder Dave Thomas.

Thomas lives in a swirl of glitter at his shop on a pier in San Francisco, but it takes more than magic to build fantastic parade floats.

"It's a lot of heart. It's the hardest artwork anyone can get into,” said Thomas.

2015's parade for the Year of the Ram boasts some 23 floats. Hundreds of thousands of spectators line the parade route, which has come a long way since Thomas would sneak onto the parade in the early 1980s wearing a disguise.

"In order to stay in the parade we kept making costumes,” said Thomas.

According to Thomas, the parade only included people with Chinatown connects and, since he was from San Jose, Thomas and his friends were kind of crashing the parade. Then one year, parade organizers pulled him aside and said they like what he was doing.

“Then they gave me one float, then three floats, and then I was building all of the floats,” said Thomas.

His floats have modernized too with glitter, glue, and the glamour of LED lighting and projector screens.

"This is kind of where Hong Kong and Singapore have gone, but they make the stuff there and here we have to pay about three-times [as much],” said Thomas. “It takes thousands of little LED lights to light up a tree and, to be honest, we had to bring in experts.”

For people who can't get to the parade in person it will be broadcast on KTVU Fox 2 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The show will also be streamed live on KTVU.com.

"Put you in the middle of the parade and give you a chance to experience at home what you might experience right here at the parade; loud and colorful and exciting,” said KTVU Operations Manager Don Thompson.

Thompson has produced the parade for as long as Thomas has built the floats, nearly 30 years. KTVU Fox 2 crews prepare for it months in advance. Thompson says his favorite moment is six o'clock Saturday night.

"When it goes on the air that's my favorite moment to sit and relax and wait for something to go wrong," laughed Thompson.

Relaxation is a long way out though in the final hours on Friday engineers and artists will be busy creating a feeling; a magical one as we welcome the Lunar New Year.

"That feeling of look at this beautiful amazing thing, that we worked so hard and we get to see people enjoy it on the parade route and the sense of satisfaction watching it all come together,” said float artist and shop manager Stephanie Mufson.