Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Victoria Park's Lunar New Year Fair gets final touches

Stall owners put aside the soaring rent of the booths to finesse their stands, while arts students promote talents of ethnic minorities

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 February, 2013, 4:41am

Vendors were putting the finishing touches on their Lunar New Year Fair stalls yesterday, before thousands of visitors arrive in the coming week.

But many owners were also predicting a less profitable year because of the rocketing costs of booths - an increase they were reluctant to pass on to consumers.

Still, some flower stalls were already seeing brisk business yesterday before the fair's official opening today in Victoria Park. Narcissus sellers said their flowers were growing at the right pace to bloom in the new year.

On the other side of the fair, snake-related stall designs were thin on the ground. The animal's low popularity had dampened enthusiasm to advertise the coming Year of the Snake.

With fierce competition at the stalls auction in October, many dry goods stall owners reported paying exceptionally high rents.

Super Bowl King Traditional Snack paid HK$135,000 at the auction for the No60 stall at the Gloucester Road entrance.

May Chung Mei-wai, manager of the Hong Kong-style snacks business, said it was double what they paid for their stall in a different spot in the park last year. She hopes to attract customers by putting Pop Rocks carbonated candy into a traditional candy and coconut wrapper.

However, she will keep the sweet affordable. "We cannot raise prices too much," she said.

Her Hong Kong-style puddings will retail for HK$1 to HK$2 more than they do in her shops.

The owner of stall No60 last year, Leung Yui-hung - known as the "king of chicken cakes" - lost in the bidding and has been forced to sell his chicken cakes elsewhere at the fair.

Meanwhile, a group of Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts students has set up a stall to raise public awareness about the artistic talents of local ethnic minorities.

Nine undergraduates from the School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts will be stationed at their booth (No134) to showcase handicrafts, like henna bookmarks and notebooks, and embroidery products, such as scarves and mobile phone holders, made mostly by women from Pakistan, Nepal and India.

About 30 Southeast Asian friends of the students will help them run the stall.

The arts booth is part of the Social Inclusion Community Arts Project, a year-long collaboration between the academy, the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education and the Wofoo Leaders' Network. Its main objective is to encourage women in ethnic minority communities, many of whom are housewives, to build more self-esteem through public appreciation of their crafts and skills.

"We chose the Lunar New Year Fair because of the many people that it draws," said Professor Lena Lee, head of arts, event and stage management at the academy.

The booth cost nearly HK$20,000, and was paid for by the project organisers. All sales proceeds will go directly to the women who made the products and NGOs that supported them.

Lee said her students were determined to tackle racism against ethnic minorities.