The heat was on in Victoria Park yesterday as thousands flocked to the first day of the Lunar New Year Fair on the warmest day in two weeks.
Temperatures in Causeway Bay reached 22 degrees Celsius in the afternoon causing some stallholders to worry the warm weather might affect customers' moods, but it seemed only to make them spend more.
Crowds started pouring in at noon, bringing plenty of business for stallholders including Sandy So Yuk-ping, general manager of Club One, who was in charge of the fair's biggest food stall.
Her stall, rented for HK$540,000, was in previous years occupied by a vendor selling fish balls and dumplings. This year, it offered abalone, sharks' fin and bird's nest treats at HK$30 a portion. So had sold 500 abalone dishes in the first 15 minutes.
"We find Hongkongers very open-minded. The Lunar New Year market doesn't always have to be about fish balls," she said.
On other stalls, bestsellers included toy horses that doubled as protest symbols and toilet rolls featuring images of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's face.
Most stalls were selling cuddly equines in a nod to the looming Year of the Horse. One featured a toy, said to be of South American beast of burden the alpaca, called a "grass mud horse" - a symbol of dissent because it is a homonym for a foul term of abuse.
Stallholder Lee Chun-him had sold more than 30 "grass mud horse" toys in two hours. Opposite him, Cheung Ka-wai was selling horses decorated with tribal patterns, while Leon Chan Tan-ho was offering handmade horse-face hats. Chan hoped temperatures would fall to make the hats more popular.
Crowds thronged the Democratic Party's stall to snap up the Ikea wolf toy Lufsig, also a protest symbol because its Chinese name is a homonym for an obscenity, and toilet rolls featuring images of Leung's face. The toilet rolls cost HK$68.90 for four, in reference to the 689 votes Leung received when elected.
Flower stalls were feeling the pinch. Liu Po-ching, selling water lilies, said costs had risen by 30 to 40 per cent. But business had been steady and they hoped things would improve as the festive atmosphere built.