(Gary Moore/CBC - image credit)
One year ago the Chinese Cultural Association of New Brunswick was ringing in the Chinese New Year onstage at the Playhouse in Fredericton — as it did every year.
The costumes, colourful. The dancing, awe-striking as the association's heritage, roots and traditions took centre stage.
It's the way the Chinese community in the province celebrates its biggest day of the year.
Shortly after last year's show, the pandemic swept through. A year later, there will be no show onstage to bring in the Year of the Ox.
But that doesn't mean there won't be a show.
The association has instead spent months preparing to do a virtual gala instead, something that was new territory for the volunteer group, according to the association's president Danya Mu.
"At the very beginning, we don't have so much confidence because we are not professionals," she said of producing a two-hour pre-recorded show that would incorporate all the elements of the live show.
But that didn't stop the association from putting together a video production that captures all of the talents, traditions and customs that would normally be showcased on the stage.
The group started shooting scenes for the production in September, and it used the opportunity to incorporate various community locations into the show.
"We have a lot of benefits for the virtual gala because we can save a lot of budget for the stage decoration and choose all the Fredericton beautiful scenery for our backgrounds," Mu said.
Besides budget savings, the group also found other benefits in hosting its gala online, including reaching people who live farther way, even in China.
Mu said her parents in China will be able to attend Friday night's virtual gala and see the work that she's been doing in New Brunswick, something they wouldn't have been able to see in the past.
The group is also able to celebrate the new year on the actual date, normally it would settle for hosting the live gala on a weekend near the new year.
But the virtual show came with a bigger commitment from the volunteers.
Instead of only spending a couple of months preparing for the live show, they have been filming scenes since the end of last summer.
Mu said the group wanted to make sure everything was filmed before the weather turned too cold, and to give themselves more time in case there was another upswing of COVID-19 in New Brunswick.
The theme for the virtual gala is "We are Family" — a nod to their community for sticking together during the pandemic, despite the challenges it presented to the group.
"A lot of people like my friends who go back to China, they cannot go there," Mu said. "We don't have a lot of chances to reunite with our families."
Mu said they have a tight-knit group that sticks together to help each other, and the pandemic has tightened that bond.