The tiniest girl forgot to leave the stage when her ballet ended during the Chinese New Year celebration at the Children's Museum on Saturday. She looked down at the flock of parents with digital video cameras and put her hands on her mouth. Then she tip toed away.
The crowd gave a collective "Ohhhhhh" and her teacher explained "She has only had two classes."
The ballet was followed by a more traditional Chinese dance of tilting palms and subtly shrugging shoulders to honor the Year of the Monkey.
"I think keeping the traditions is a good thing," said Kevin Mei of Reno whose son Dennis, 7, sang "Two Little Tigers" in Chinese.
"The traditional dancing is very familiar to me because I'm from China," Mei said.
He and other parents of students at the Northern Nevada Chinese School in Reno attended the museum's first Chinese New Year celebration. The event lasted three days with arts and crafts Thursday and Friday and dancing, food and displays Saturday.
"It's a zoo in here," said event organizer Penny Holbrook. She was inspired by fond memories of the New Year from growing up in Hawaii.
She brought tangerines as a sign of wealth and success. Children took turns wearing her beautiful lion's head masks. One had a long cloth tail which other kids could get under to make a splendid, five-person dragon.
"Seeing the dragon close up like that was impressive," said Shane Saucedo of Gardnerville. "I've only seen that on TV."
He brought his nephews Brogan, 21Ú2, and Corbin, 4.
"What we wanted to do here is promote cultural diversity and bring other people in," explained Joey Parker, a member of the museum's board. "Children of all cultures are always welcome here."
Playing at her feet were several Chinese-American girls in magenta and green silk. They have all been adopted by teachers in the Carson City School District.
Annette Hodorowicz, a third-grade teacher at Bordewich Bray, has adopted three Chinese girls: Faithann, 7, Ann Ji, 5, and Hannah Hope, 3. She used to take her girls to a Chinese New Year celebration in Douglas County but it no longer happens.
"Penny (Holbrook) started doing this one - We're so glad."
The Chinese government requires adopting parents to keep their children immersed in Chinese culture.
"You have to promise to help them understand what Chinese New Year is, what the Moon Festival is - and we're doing that," she said.
"We try to celebrate all the major holidays," said Cathi Adams, who team teaches with Hodorowicz. Adams adopted Ginny Mei, 5, and Meika, 2. Empire Elementary School teacher Marie Simonson has adopted Li Sarah who will turn 6 on Feb. 1.
"I think it's important for the kids to understand their culture," said Dr. Feng Su, director of the Reno Chinese school.
Holbrook, also a board member, is hoping the museum can organize other ethnic celebrations. Anyone interested in helping should call 884-2226.
Contact Karl Horeis at email@example.com or 881-1219.