Christmas is over. New Years has passed. What do we have to look forward to? Why Butte’s Chinese New Year, of course! The shortest, loudest, coldest Chinese New Year Parade in America kicks is next month: February 13, 2016. The parade usually starts from the Butte-Silverbow Courthouse around 3:00 pm and ends at the Mai-Wah museum. 2016, the Year of the Monkey, will mark the 24th year of the parade, which started in 1993. It will also mark the 18th year that the dragon, a gift from the people of Taiwan, will be the centrepiece of the parade.Butte’s Chinese heritage stretches back to the 1880s. Butte’s Chinatown was never very big—it only covered a few blocks on Mercury Street, centered around the Mai-Wah General Store—but at its height, Butte Chinatown had between one and two thousand residents. Forbidden from staking claims, and excluded from most of the mines, Butte’s Chinese mostly took on periphery jobs. They ran laundries, grocery stores, apothecaries, and restaurants.
By the mid-twentieth century, Butte’s Chinese population had mostly disappeared. To this day many of the buildings in old Chinatown are abandoned. However the Mai-Wah museum and society celebrate the city’s Chinese heritage. The museum offers tours and had fascinating displays of artifacts recovered from around Mercury Street. The museum also offers cultural events throughout the year, the most impressive of which is the New Year Parade, a not-to-be-missed spectacle, and hey, now you have plenty of time to plan your visit. Also, if you happen to be in Butte before January 23, the Carle Gallery is hosting a Mai-Way display, including posters from previous parades and the silk dragon. Be sure to stop by.