Walking through Chinatown this weekend, you'd swear you were in the middle of a Folklorama pavilion -- except you're not.

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This article was published 11/8/2012 (3351 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Members of The Lion Dance, performed by the Ching Wu Athletic Association, stop to meet Daphne Young, her son Franco Young, 19 months, and Heather Millar, during the Chinatown Street Festival Saturday.

Members of The Lion Dance, performed by the Ching Wu Athletic Association, stop to meet Daphne Young, her son Franco Young, 19 months, and Heather Millar, during the Chinatown Street Festival Saturday.

Walking through Chinatown this weekend, you'd swear you were in the middle of a Folklorama pavilion -- except you're not.

Several blocks of King Street were cordoned off Saturday as the fourth annual Chinatown Street Festival kicked off with a flurry of activity, including traditional dancing, singing and eating.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Jingwen Hu, 15, from the Manitoba Great Wall Dancers, performs at the Chinatown Street Festival.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jingwen Hu, 15, from the Manitoba Great Wall Dancers, performs at the Chinatown Street Festival.

Organizers are hoping as many as 5,000 people will take part in the two-day event, which wraps up late this afternoon.

"A lot of life happens outdoors. We want to encourage people to come down and experience Chinatown and Chinese culture," said Tina Chen, co-ordinator of this year's event.

The street festival started in 2009 as a way of celebrating the centennial of Winnipeg's Chinatown. But Chen said because street festivals are such an integral part Chinese life, it was decided to make it an annual event.

Street vendors sold traditional Chinese clothing, art work and jewelry while children had their faces painted and played Chinese chess, mahjong and other games. Free martial arts lessons were also available.

But not every element of the street festival has its roots in the Far East. A Brazilian band played on Saturday afternoon and Serbian dancers and Latin American musicians were to follow.

"We work with many other communities and we wanted to showcase that by inviting people from other cultures to perform," Chen said.

Leah and Rio Arellano and their family are a good example of the street festival's multiculturalism. As Filipinos, they know a thing or two about Asian culture but they like to come to the street festival to get a taste -- literally -- of another country.

"The best part is the food," Leah Arellano said, as her three children amused themselves nearby. "And the entertainment."

Silvia Wu does double duty during the street festival. The owner of Silvia's Laser Acupuncture & Herbal Clinic performed with a dance troupe on Saturday afternoon but was back behind the cashier at the general store she also runs -- still wearing her traditional costume -- just moments after leaving the stage.

"The street festival is just like Folklorama. It exposes people to Chinese culture. That's why we hang traditional Chinese lanterns on the street. It's Chinese style," she said.

Chen said the timing of the festival with Folklorama is just a coincidence. It's difficult to find a weekend in Winnipeg during the summer that isn't already home to some kind of festival and organizers didn't want to have it on a long weekend.

"We run our festival during the day so it doesn't conflict with Folklorama pavilions. We want to be able to celebrate multiculturalism across the city," Chen said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca