Three lions welcome Rooster

LIHUE — Tracey Pilch of Anchorage, Alaska, spent the last two days working through the routine for their Chinese lion.

Pilch and Petr Bucinsky arranged to have a Chinese lion costume shipped to Kauai for the Chinese New Year celebration at Kukui Grove Center.

“We called ahead of time, and they said they were doing this,” Pilch said. “We always want to do something that gives back to the community, so we decided we’d do this.”

Bucinsky said Pilch always loves costumes, so having the Chinese lion added to her collection did not strike him as being unusual.

“You should see her in the parades back home,” he said. “She spent the last several days working on the routine after looking at YouTube tutorials.”

The Alaskan couple joined two lions from Tsunami Taiko on Saturday afternoon, helping hundreds of people welcome the Chinese New Year — the Year of the Fire Rooster — at Kukui Grove.

“I thought we were going to have just one lion,” said Stacie Chiba-Miguel, the Kukui Grove real estate manager. “But look, we have three after the Alaska couple joined the group.”

Joanne Parongao of the Tsunami Taiko group said they got help from Kevin Toma, the Waimea High School band director, in teaching the young performers the routine for the lion dance.

“Kevin was on the West Coast and belonged to a martial arts group where he learned how to do this,” she said. “We’re lucky to have him help us.”

Peyton Visitacion, 5, was among the throngs of people who followed the lions from the Macy’s end of the mall to the food court.

“This is exciting,” Visitacion said. “This is my very first time I’m seeing the lion, ever.”

Pilch, who handled the head end of the Alaska lion, said she never expected this many people.

“I can’t believe there were this many people who come out for this,” she said. “My dress was already full of li si, and I couldn’t shake anymore without them spilling. I was afraid I would step on some little person, too.”

Bucinsky said working the tail end of the lion was a real workout. “This wasn’t a short in-and-out thing,” he said. “Last year, I heard the routine was really short. This time, it was long. Working the lion, I think I lost more water weight than spending the time in the gym. I was dripping.”

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