The Autumn Moon Festival — Annual Event Doesn’t Spark Celebrations Throughout Chinatown

Note:  This was in advance of the 2017 festival. Be careful when marking your calendar for 2018—or thereafter !

By Julian Moncaleano

As the Autumn Moon Festival approaches, there is a sense of eagerness among residents of San Francisco’s Chinatown, but many local businesses are preparing for what is—unexpectedly—one of the slowest times of the year.

The annual Autumn Moon Festival will take place Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 and will run through historic Grant Avenue. A wide group of business owners view this as just another weekend, if not a slower one. The Moon Festival has been perceived as a busy weekend for local storefronts but the truth is, it is a cultural gathering and not too many people seem interested in overpriced souvenirs.

Among the few businesses that might flourish during this culturally celebrated weekend is Chinatown Parking, located on Pacific Avenue. Parking attendant Jin Lee shared his thoughts on the upcoming festival. “For those who don’t take Muni or BART, it will be a hassle to find parking in a garage and especially on the streets. We don’t understand why people choose to drive, but we’re glad they do.”

There are not too many businesses like Chinatown Parking that will find success during that weekend, but this will not limit stores from trying. Yogesh Patel, owner of Shona Fashion, located in the middle of Grant Avenue, said, “It would be nice to get our own pop-up shop in the streets, seeing as how these little stands are responsible for the closing of the street. It is one of the most crowded times, but the people are here for other reasons.”

Chinatown remains one of the country’s most popular tourist spots. Colin Wentworth, a traveler from Sweden, is looking forward to seeing what the festivities have to offer. “I’ll be here for about one more month and definitely plan on checking out the Moon Festival.”

Wentworth has already been to Chinatown a few times during his trip. “If I do decide to join the festivities, I am looking forward to seeing what new things I can buy. I feel like I have seen everything that these souvenir shops have to offer and don’t plan on buying from them at that time.”

Not all tourists will have experienced Chinatown like Wentworth has, but for those visiting for a long period, the festival lasts only two days and they know the local shops will still be there after the festival.

One of the traditions of the Autumn Moon Festival is the lighting and release of a lantern into the full moon. According to the festival’s webpage, the lighting ceremony takes place at 9 p.m. Saturday at the main stage area, located on Grant Avenue and Washington Street. Throughout the day, many children will create and design their own lanterns and prepare them for the lighting ceremony.

Tourists and locals can stop by Chinatown Kite and purchase a lantern for $2.99. This, in fact, might become the most popular type of purchase on Grant Avenue during the festival.

Ryan Chan of Gifts and Souvenirs said, “The items like the lantern or something relevant in the festival is what could possibly sell in my store.”

The celebration will come to an end, while business owners on Grant Avenue and the rest of Chinatown will continue to work as if the festival never occurred. The everyday life of the hard-working proprietors and employees will never seem to grow old in this community. Next year’s Moon Festival will once again fill the streets – a tradition that will continue to grow.

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