Xiani Zhong

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Culture, Straight News, Writing

A song of ice and fire

Chinese students ignite fireworks on Lake Mendota to commemorate Lunar New Year

Firework show cost $6,000

· Feb 8, 2016
(Read the story online)
Last night, while most University of Wisconsin students were watching the Super Bowl, hundreds of Chinese students were at the terrace observing a firework display that reminded them of their homes thousands of miles away.

The UW Chinese Students and Scholars Association hosted the 20-minute firework show, preceded by the New Year Gala in Union Theatre Sunday night. It is tradition for the organization to host the New Year Gala every year in an effort to gather the Madison Chinese community for a joyous celebration, CSSA president Qiushi Zheng, said.

Yuhui Xie, an international Chinese student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, said it was the third New Year she spent in the U.S. without her family.

“I didn’t know I missed home so much until I saw the fireworks,” Xie said. “When I looked at them I just cried, and I couldn’t stop.”

Zheng said this year was the first time the organization added fireworks to the gala. While fireworks had been considered in the past, CSSA was unable to include them until this year because of procedural difficulties and high cost, Zheng said.

In order to include the firework show in the celebration, CSSA’s planning committee had to contact the Office of Risk Management at UW to get the university’s approval, Zheng said, and also the Madison police and fire departments to gain permission from the city.

Chenjia Zhang, CSSA planning committee member, said the organization was unsure if the weather would cooperate for the firework show because Lake Mendota was not frozen before winter break and it needed to be to light the fireworks off of it.

“We had to check the weather regularly and predict what the lake was going to be like in February,” Zhang said. “We didn’t get everything finalized until a week before the gala.”

In terms of funding, Zheng said the Associate Students of Madison was the gala and firework show’s biggest sponsor. The CSSA public relations committee worked with ASM to negotiate and secure the gala venue, the performances and the fireworks, the latter of which cost around $6,000, Zheng said.

CSSA started planning the gala this past October, Zheng said. The show featured approximately 15 performances from Chinese students on campus, local Chinese community members, multiple UW student organizations and other ethnic groups in Madison.

The performances not only showcased traditional Chinese culture, but they also brought a sense of home to Chinese students who were away from their families at this time of the year.

Zheng said the event’s goal is to help the UW community recognize its Chinese members and the importance of Spring Festival to them.

CSSA, the oldest UW Chinese student organization, currently has over 100 members, Zheng said, and all of them poured energy and effort into planning the gala.

“I think it’s our teamwork and the universal goal that made this happen,” Zheng said.

Xie, who performed in a play during the gala, said she was happy to be a part of the festivity that fosters cross-cultural appreciation and understanding.

Xie said the play she acted in presented the traditional Chinese way of life with a comedic spin and even cracked up some of the American attendees.

“I feel like I disseminated…the Chinese culture to Americans, which is what I always wanted to do,” Xie said.

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