BUTTE, Mont. – The true meaning of Butte Tough was in full effect Saturday afternoon as the community walked to different businesses uptown to celebrate Chinese New Year.
The parade started at the courthouse with the gold dragon making its way out the door and down the steps. Even though it was well below freezing, that didn’t stop the community from showing up.
Butte High School Montana History Club Teacher Chris Fisk said each year his students look forward to carrying the dragon during the special event.
“They look forward to this every year regardless of how cold it is,” said Fisk. “These kids really kinda Butte knuckle up. They get ahold of the dragon to celebrate the shortest, coldest, loudest parade in Montana, and they take a lot of pride in it.”
Each year the Mai Wah Society hosts the parade to cherish the legacy the Chinese miners left behind when they first came to the Mining City, forming Chinatown between Galena and Mercy Streets. Emcee of the event and newest Mai Wah board member Emma Cunneen believes it is important to preserve Butte’s history.
“Old buildings are like a massive passion of mine and especially like the history of Butte and preserving and maintaining and displaying it for everyone else to see and to experience,” said Cunneen. “So it is really exciting to be a part of.”
Even though the parade is only a couple of blocks long, the dragon stops at each individual business that donates, first roaring three times to acknowledge its presence, dancing around in a circle and then bowing to show gratitude for the community support.
Mai Wah board member David Stonehocker, who led the dragon around to the different businesses said each year it is inspiring to see people come out no matter the weather and no matter the celebration.
“There are all kinds of celebrations throughout the year,” said Stonehocker. “The Slavic community, the Irish community, the coronation of the Fins. They are just proud to celebrate whatever we can as part of our history.”
That history runs deep, not just locally, not just statewide, but nationally. The Mai Wah was recently awarded a preservation grant through the National Trust for Historic Preservation of over $100,000 to make improvements to the building that once was in the center of Butte’s Chinatown.