Flower Street, Tet fest to welcome Year of the Cat

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The annual transformation of Nguyen Hue Boulevard in Ho Chi Minh City into a Flower Street for Tet, the Lunar New Year festival, will celebrate a happy coincidence this year.

The first day of the Lunar New Year festival, February 3, is also the founding day of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Accordingly, the theme of this year's floral extravaganza on the boulevard is T^m cao m^i (New heights), reflecting the desire for and efforts toward significant

social and economic achievements, Nguyen Huu Tho, general director of Saigontourist, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The statues of a pair of cats surrounded by colorful flowers will be erected in the center of two bamboo clusters at the entrance of Nguyen Hue Boulevard to welcome guests into the Flower Street. The coming New Year is the Year of the Cat.

The Flower Street is part of the Lunar New Year celebrations featuring a series of entertainment and charitable programs, event organizers said on Wednesday. The Saigontourist Holding Company has been the main organizer of the festival since 2004.

Work on the annual flower show will start this Friday, January 21 and some 120,000 flower pots will be displayed on Nguyen Hue Boulevard alone, said Tran Hung Viet, deputy general director of Saigontourist and head of the organizing committee.

The show will be open to the public for seven days, from 7 p.m. on January 31 to 10 p.m. on February 6 (from the 28th day of lunar December to the fourth day of the new lunar year). The avenue will be closed to all vehicles during this period.

Apricot blossoms - the southern region's traditional Tet flower, will adorn the Ho Chi Minh Statue Park in front of the city government's office. Surrounding the statue will be lotus flowers.

In addition, orchids, ornamental plants, and bonsai will be brought from the highland resort town of Da Lat and major flower-growing areas in the Mekong Delta provinces to be displayed along Nguyen Hue and surrounding streets like Le Loi, Dong Khoi, Nguyen Thiep, Huynh Thuc Khang, Ngo Duc Ke and Hai Trieu.

This year the organizers will rebuild the "Wishing-well lake," a highlight of Tet 2008, on Hai Trieu Street. Visitors can drop coins into the lake to make wishes. The coins will be collected and donated to victims of natural disasters, together with donation made by Kinh Do Corp.

The main streets in District 1 Nguyen Hue, Le Loi and Dong Khoi, will also be decorated with thousands of colorful lights and lanterns from January 26 to February 14.

The organizing committee said the festival would feature other annual events including a banh tet (a traditional sticky rice cake in a cylindrical shape) fest and firework displays.

Viet said like the previous festival, this year's event would include banh tet making contests open to both individuals and organizations throughout the city's 24 districts.

The prize winners will have the honor of offering the cakes at worshipping ceremonies at the Hung Kings (legendary founders of Vietnam) temple in District 9 at 7 a.m. on January 31 and at the Ho Chi Minh and the Ton Duc Thang museums at 7:30 a.m. the next day.

Saigontourist, in cooperation with the HCMC Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, will also donate 10,000 banh tet cakes to disadvantaged children and people at 100 open houses and shelters around the city on January 31.

The midnight skies will light up with 15-minute firework displays to kick-start festivities on Lunar New Year's Eve, February 3. The pyrotechnics shows will be held at eight venues - Caric Shipyard in District 2; the construction area of the administrative center of District 7 in Tan Phu Ward; Go Vap Cultural Park in Go Vap District; Nga Ba Giong War Martyrs' Monument in Hoc Mon District, Ben Duoc War Martyrs' Temple in Cu Chi District; the Ethnic Cultural History Park in District 9, the Dam Sen Theme Park in District 11 and in Can Gio District.

The festival will also include kylin and dragon dances, music shows featuring Vietnamese traditional folk and contemporary music and drum performances held at the Caravelle, Rex, Majestic, Grand, Continental, Kim Do, Oscar, Bong Sen and Palace hotels from January 31 to February 6.

Major sponsors for the Tet Festival 2011 include Van Thinh Phat Co., Imex Pan Pacific Co., TimeSquare Vietnam, Windsor Plaza Hotel, and Kinh Do Corp.

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