Chinese New Year: Fong is making way for new street fair leaders

Those who have immersed themselves in the Chinese New Year Community Street Fair that has graced Chinatown streets for the last quarter-century, may have heard among the sights and sounds the jovial voice of the longtime emcee, the Rev. Norman Fong.

Fong, 63, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, has emceed the entertainment stage on Washington Street below Grant Avenue for the two-day fair for the last decade and a half, and loves introducing the Chinese opera, folk dancers, drummers and other acts. But this coming Saturday and Sunday, he is stepping down from the role as emcee.

“It’s not that I’m tired of doing it,” Fong said. “But new leaders shall be born.” Among the four up-and-coming youth leaders of the Community Development Center who will share the stage announcing duties are Jerri Diep, 23, in English and Kitty Fong, 26, in Cantonese.

Both have emceed for other events put on by the center in the past — Diep during Parents Day at the Ping Yuen public-housing development and Fong at a monthly Super Sunday event for single-room-occupancy hotel families in Chinatown. They accepted the invitation to emcee at this year’s community street fair to interact with their community outside of their normal work environment.

“I think it will be a very fun and exciting experience to emcee for the community I grew up in and I would love to meet different people coming to Chinatown for the community street fair,” Kitty Fong said. “And because I get to watch the all the great performances at the same time!”

Kitty Fong, a project coordinator for six months, and Diep, a community organizer for a year with the center, know they have big shoes to fill.

“It will definitely be a challenge, as Norman has done a wonderful job in the past years. He is definitely someone who always ensures that the audience has a great time, every time,” Diep said. “We can only strive to do the same and create the same atmosphere for our audience.”

The community street fair started as a dream of Norman Fong, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Chinatown community members. Volunteers came from neighborhood community organizations, churches and high schools and to this day, staff the event security.

“No one can do it alone. It’s so much work it takes a village,” Norman Fong said. “And the future looks good with all this young leadership.”

Diep said she and Kitty Fong plan to continue emceeing the street fair “as long as they are needed to fill the role.”

“But of course, we would like to give the chance to other new folks coming into the organization as well,” Diep said, “like the way the torch was handed off to us.”

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