Korean American Rose Parade Float Wins Award
Photo courtesy of Korea Daily.
By Sam Chu Lin | Special to AsianWeek
Over half a million people lined Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif. on New Years Day for the Tournament of Roses Parade, all witness to the float commemorating the centennial arrival of the first Koreans in America on board the SS Gaelic.
Many of the participants beamed with pride because this float with its theme: Proud Past, Promising Future won the coveted Past Presidents Trophy for the most creative design and the use of both floral and non floral materials.
At the front of the float, the American and South Korean flags flanked a replica of the steam and sail powered ship that brought the immigrants to this country, while an intricate and ornately detailed Namdaeum Gate with two 17-foot-tall palace guards filled the back of the moving platform. As the vehicle moved down the parade route, steam poured from the ships funnel and a Korean American childrens choir sang.
Taking part in the parade, which was so close to the actual 100th anniversary of the arrival of Koreans into the U.S., will help give everyone, including those of Korean heritage, a better understanding of our role in American society, commented John Suh, a member of the Southern California chapter of the national Korean American Centennial Committee and the organizing chairperson of the effort to build the float.
He added, This will send a message to the Korean people in Korea and to the Korean American people here and to our fellow countrymen, that we are part of this country and that we are productive members of the society.
Local Korean Americans raised more than $250,000 in donations to get the job done. With millions of people watching on television across the country and around the world, this was a great way to kick off a celebration that officially gets underway in Hawaii on Jan. 13 and continues through the year.
As the day of the parade approached, the pace quickened and hundreds of volunteers filled Fiesta Floats main warehouse in Duarte to glue on flowers and to finish the project. Several participants noted that this was an opportunity for young and old alike to share the history of Korean Americans first hand and to pass it on.
Michelle Park Steel, a volunteer and a member of President Bushs Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, brought her two daughters and several neighbors to help with the float.
Participants in the 2002 Tournament of Roses Parade commemorating the centennial arrival of the first Koreans in America on board the SS Gaelic. Photos by Sam Chu Lin and courtesy of Korea Daily.
I want them to see what Korean Americans are doing, she said. Were having a lot of fun here. Serving as a volunteer is very, very important in America. Its great to participate, and they can see what they accomplished on national television.
Edwin Kim, a junior at Otis College of Art & Design, shared that enthusiasm.
"Im trying to learn more about my history, he reflected. I was born in America and my parents in Korea. They were the first generation. I want to find out what its like to be part of the Korean environment
The Southern California Korean American community also staged a large news conference and event to help celebrate the centennial anniversary at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles. Five hundred people were on hand as City Councilman Nate Holden and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich presented city and county proclamations.
The people who rode on the float were introduced. The entourage included Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Tammy Ryu, the first Korean American woman to sit on a California court, Southern California Korean Centennial Queen Judy Park and her court, Texas Ranger pitcher Chan Ho Park, LA Galaxy World Cup soccer star Myung Bo Hong, and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medal diver Sammy Lee.
Commander Paul Kim, the highest-ranking officer in the Los Angeles Police Department, thought the kickoff to the centennial celebration produced two important results.
Its great that were recognizing the people who went through those first 100 years and the sacrifices that they made, he stated. They created what we have today.
When all of the shouting is done and the dust has settled, we have to realize that Korean Americans are part of a larger landscape and our role has to be far beyond the labels that we have put on ourselves like Korean Americans, Chinese Americans or Japanese Americans. Were simply Americans.