See Why the Central WI Chinese New Year Celebration Was a Hit!

Written by Melinda Osterberg

The last weekend in January, Central Wisconsin celebrated the Chinese New Year at the only public community festival recognizing this significant holiday in 2020.

Together, a dedicated group of volunteers, Marathon County Extension, and the Wausau and Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department brought a Chinese New Year celebration to Wausau for its first communitywide celebration.

Over 750 people attended the event to learn more about Chinese culture and enjoy award-winning entertainment.

Chinese Lion Dance
Dancers from the Zhong Yi Kung Fu Association prepare to perform the Lion Dance — a Chinese tradition to bring prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year.

The festival began on January 24 with an analysis of the current U.S.–China trade situation. Partnering with the UW–Madison Center for East Asian Studies, Pam Jahnke (The Fabulous Farm Babe) moderated a panel discussion featuring:

  • Interim DATCP Secretary Randy Romanski
  • UW-Economist Guanming Shi
  • Will Hsu (Hsu’s Ginseng)
  • Charles Wachsmuth (Chippewa Valley Bean)


Pam Jahnke moderating a panel discussion on current trade policies between the United States and China at the Chinese New Year celebration at the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service. The panel was composed of (from left to right) Randy Romanski, Guanming Shi, Will Hsu, and Charles Wachsmuth.

I invite you to view the panel discussion here, if interested.

The discussion was followed by an International Dinner organized by UW–Stevens Point at Wausau.

International Dinner
Cultural dinner attendees display their Chinese calligraphy skills.

In addition, UW–Madison students Reggie Wu and Serena Wu provided information on traditional Chinese New Year customs.

Reggie Wu, Melinda Osterberg, and Serena Wu. Melinda is holding a paper cut. Paper cutting is a traditional Chinese folk art representing wisdom.

Then, on January 25, the Zhong Yi Kung Fu Association performed throughout the day. Performances included a traditional lion dance (as can be seen in the brief video clip below), a kung fu demonstration, and a drum array.


Cooking demonstrations were provided by Event Volunteer Joy Clendenning, and even State of Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes had the opportunity to make dumplings to celebrate the Year of the Rat.

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes and Joy Clendenning making dumplings at the Chinese New Year celebration.

The Ginseng Board of Wisconsin and Hsu’s Ginseng provided information on the health benefits of ginseng and the history of ginseng in Central Wisconsin. Event volunteers provided calligraphy lessons, Mandarin language mini-lessons, storytelling opportunities, and cooking demonstrations.

Chinese New Year - 1
Marathon County employee Nancy Anderson, is reading a Chinese folk tale at the Chinese New Year Storytelling area.

Overall, the event was a lovely cultural opportunity for the City of Wausau, Marathon County, and the State of Wisconsin! (Read Marathon County’s Lunar New Year Resolution here, if interested.)

NOTE: The Chinese New Year Festival would not have been possible without generous donations from CoVantage Credit Union, Hsu’s Ginseng, Heil Ginseng, and the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin.

Chinese New Year sponsor - logos

 We expect to see the event grow even bigger next year…
Hope to see you there!

MelindaOsterbergMelinda Osterberg

Marathon & Lincoln County Community Development Educator | UW-Madison Division of Extension

Melinda began her career with Marathon County in 2019, as the Community Development Educator for Marathon and Lincoln Counties. Prior to taking her position with UW-Madison Extension, her focus was land use planning and zoning, both in the private sector and as a County Planner for several counties in Central Wisconsin. In Marathon County, Melinda’s focus is on rural broadband and organizational and economic development, particularly through a cultural lens. In her free time, she enjoys long-distance running, golfing, gardening, and spending time with her two sons (Jack and Mark).  Email Melinda Osterberg.

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