Beale Airmen bring life to the dragon of Maryville’s 143rd Bok Kai Parade

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Frederick A. Brown
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

The cold air sweeping through the overcast day, Feb. 25, did little to dissuade the crowds gathered to celebrate the 143rd Bok Kai parade, California’s oldest continuously held parade.

The parade is held each year to honor Bok Eye, the Chinese Water God said to protect Marysville from flooding. It was predicted to rain all day, but everyone knows, it never rains on Bok Kai, the Water God won’t allow it.

Thousands of visitors came from all over including San Francisco, Seattle, Oregon and even as far as Hong Kong to see the parade consisting of community organizations, schools, businesses, and traditional Chinese lion dancers. Toward the end as fire crackers left the air filled with smoke, anticipation grew for the final performance.

The audience had their phones out and children peered through the smoke waiting to spot it. Then, through the smoke, the dragon appeared.

A 175-foot-long, golden dragon, “Hong Wan Lung”, emerged from the smoke, dancing between crowds of cheering spectators and weaving through colorful firecrackers. Beneath the dragon are the many legs of those giving it life, Airmen of Beale Air Force Base.

Service members from Beale AFB volunteer each Bok Kai parade to carry the dragon, a sign of the healthy partnership between Beale and the local communities. Also appearing as special guests of the parade were Col. Jason Eckberg, 9th Reconnaissance Wing vice-commander, Col. Richard Heaslip, 940th Air Refueling Wing commander, and their families.

For these Team Beale members, this is an opportunity not just to serve their local community, but to learn about the diverse cultures they consist of.

“It felt great to help out the local community, especially with such a fun and exciting event,” said Senior Airman Zoey Martins, 9th Health Care Operations Squadron medical logistics technician. “I loved being able to learn about and take part in a different culture’s celebrations.”

Martins held the “pearl”, a mystical object the dragon chases in the continuous pursuit of wisdom and enlightenment. Beale’s service members performed the movement, “Dragon Chasing the Pearl”, which involves the dragon moving in wave-like patterns achieved by the coordinated swinging of each section in succession.

As the dragon concluded its dance past the Marysville Bok Kai temple, the legs carrying it brought it back to its home at the local Habitat for Humanity to be stored for another year. The Beale Airmen emerged from beneath, sweating and smelling of smoke, but smiling and energetic.

Bok Kai began in the 1880’s as “Bomb Day” due to the huge firecrackers fired off during the celebration. Today Bok Kai is also known as Bok Eye’s birthday.

“Being part of the organization that puts together this parade for the last ten years, it’s an honor to carry on this volunteer work, not only as service to the Marysville community but as part of my own Chinese heritage”, said Candice Young Fresquez, Bok Kai Parade co-chairman. “Next year I will be stepping down from my role and help out however I can as Bok Kai is placed under the direction of the Marysville Chinese community. It brings me so many emotions, but I am so excited to see this event continue to grow under the Chinese community’s direction.”

Visit next year’s Bok Kai parade and the dragon, “Hong Wan Lung”, brought to life by Beale’s service members, in 2024 on the weekend closest to the second day of the second month of the Lunar Calendar.