• A young girl covers her ears as a display of firecrackers explodes. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Children feed money to Lunar New Year dragons after a performance in Mid City. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Children feed lucky money envelopes to Lunar New Year dragons after a performance in Mid City. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Dragon dancers display New Year banners. Photo by Chris Stone
  • A golden dragon greets attendees to the Lunar New Years Tet Festival in Mid City. Photo by Chris Stone
  • The SD Lunar New Year Tet Festival is free after being cancelled last year. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Meat and seafood are on the grill for the Lunar New Year festival. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Former members of the South Vietnamese military serve as honor guards. Photo by Chris Stone
  • A flag preserved after the fall of Saigon is displayed at the Tet Festival. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Former Vietnamese soldiers display a Vietnamese and a U.S. flag. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Siblings Jaxun, 8, (left) and Layla Ingrassio, 6, play with dragon puppets amid music. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Food booths were enjoyed by attendees at the lunar celebration. Photo by Chris Stone
  • A lucky money envelope is hung from a flower display. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Community elders bow before an altar to honor ancestors at the lunar festival. Photo by Chris Stone
  • A former Vietnamese soldiers pauses to honor Vietnamese people who died in his past homeland. Photo by Chris Stone
  • A contestant in a Pho noodle eating contest buries himself in the task. Photo by Chris Stone
  • Tony Nguyen (left), a dragon dancer, wins the Pho eating contest. Photo by Chris Stone

A diverse crowd of hundreds Saturday greeted the Year of the Tiger on the second day of the San Diego Lunar New Year Festival celebrating Asian culture and traditions.

Area residents enjoyed Vietnamese culture, dragon and lion dances along with food vendors, competitions, contests and other performances at Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park.

Organized by the Little Saigon Foundation of San Diego, it was called the largest Tet Holiday event in San Diego.

An arch with firecrackers exploded amid a dragon dance. Children ran up to the dragons to feed them cash and envelopes with “lucky money.”

Former South Vietnamese soldiers formed an honor guard, and a yellow and red former Vietnamese flag preserved after the fall of Saigon was presented.

On the edge of the park at 4455 Wightman St., contestants (mostly men) competed in a Pho eating contest. The first to finish was Tony Nguyen, a dragon dancer, who emptied his bowl of noodles quickly.

Food and community agency booths greeted attendees. The line for frozen treats from an ice cream truck were the longest.

People had their pictures taken holding traditional poles with food baskets and sitting in a rickshaw.

The free festival continues from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

The Lunar New Year falls between late January and mid-February, and is celebrated around the globe, particularly in China, Vietnam, South Korea, and North Korea.

Last year, due to COVID-19, local festivities included socially distanced performances outside of businesses and virtual presentations.

Saturday, visitors explored and took pictures at the Cultural Village, decorated with flowers, fruits and vegetables to resemble a traditional village of Southeast Asia.

On the Chinese zodiac calendar, 2021 was the Year of the Ox. Feb. 1 marks the new year (Year of the Tiger), which typically begins with the first new moon that occurs between the end of January and spans the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar — until the full moon arrives.

In Vietnamese celebrations of the holiday, homes are decorated with kumquat trees and flowers such as peach blossoms, chrysanthemums, orchids and red gladiolas. As in China, travel is heavy during the holiday as family members gather to mark the new year.