It's bun for all as good sports rule at festival
Anita Lam and Vivienne Chow
Islanders revel in festivities as long weekend, ideal weather bring hordes of visitors
Portrayals of politicians and athletes dominated yesterday's Cheung Chau Bun Festival parade, as dragon dancers, stalls selling good-luck buns and tens of thousands of spectators packed the island village's alleys.
Organisers said about 50,000 visitors packed the island for the event, the highlight of the community's calendar, while a capacity crowd of 1,500 jammed the Pak Tai sports ground for the midnight climax, the scramble up a 14-metre tower to gather bags full of festive buns.
Cheung Chau native Jason Kwok Ka-ming, a firefighter who has won the scramble for the three years since it was reintroduced in its present form, said he wanted another trophy but conceded this year's contest was very competitive. 'A lot of the contestants are very fast. I will need some luck if I want to win again. I haven't done much to prepare this year, except going to the gym regularly.'
He said that as the bags the contestants were given were bigger this year, he would have to work even more quickly.
Last year's second runner-up, Tam Chung-him, said he had been having special training for a month but still admired Kwok's speed.
Organisers handed out free 1,500 tickets to enter the sports ground where the scramble was being held, and when distribution started at 10pm there were already more than 1,000 people in the queue.
Earlier, onlookers clapped and cheered as the colourful parade of 'floating' children dressed as prominent figures wound around the village.
Political antagonists Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee met again ahead of August's Legco election. Two little actresses, one in a suit and holding a sequined handbag, the other holding a flower, 'floated' around receiving blessings.
Cycling champion Wong Kam-po, table tennis silver medallist Ko Lai-chak and other athletes dominated the rest of the parade. Cyrus Lee, four, who impersonated Ko, had his hair shaved to read: 'Hong Kong, China'.
But a participating group said child performers were getting more difficult to find. 'I was turned down by 15 parents before finding six children willing to join the parade,' float master Chu Mei-ming said. 'Many children have left the island for study and don't have time to come back for practice. Others do not like seeing their kids under the sun for hours.'
Bun makers, snack shops and retail stores all benefited from the extra traffic. A shop specialising in bun souvenirs said sales were so good that customers asked to buy damaged goods after the good stock ran out - despite prices 10 to 20 per cent more than last year.
Indigenous villagers were unhappy that some food vendors ignored the tradition of not selling or eating meat until the end of the parade.
Festival committee chairman Yung Chi-ming said about 10 per cent of the restaurants broke the rules.
The crowding took its toll on some visitors. At least six people had been taken to the island's clinic suffering dizziness, shortness of breath and a minor finger injury.