About 11 o'clock Saturday morning, three lions showed up among the apples, grapes, and lettuces arranged in the packed aisles of Iovine Bros. Produce in Reading Terminal Market.
To the beat of drums so loud that the floorboards vibrated, the yellow and red lions ducked and wove, stopping customers over at DiNic's Roast Pork in mid-bite.
One man held a sugar cone from Bassetts Ice Cream in one hand and a phone in the other, snapping pictures as the traditional lion dancers snaked their way around the market.
The performance was part of Reading Terminal's first year partnering with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which begins Monday and continues throughout the week.
The event, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and kicked off the Year of the Monkey, began with a dumpling demonstration with chefs from Sang Kee Peking Duck, a lion dance by the Philadelphia Suns, and a cooking demonstration by chef Joseph Poon, followed by calligraphy, music, tea samples, and crafts.
Sarah Levitsky, the marketing and event manager at the market, said her team approached PCDC with the idea to grow a tighter bond with the Chinatown community.
"Chinatown is our closest neighborhood where people actually live . . . and we thought it would be a good idea to build a stronger relationship with the community there," Levitsky said.
She expected a good turnout for the event, with help from the Philadelphia Auto Show running at the Pennsylvania Convention Center until Monday, and heavy promotion from both organizations.
Olivia Scalzetti, 23, of Northeast Philadelphia, brought her parents out for the festivities after she found the event online when looking for ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year. She watched the entirety of Poon's nearly two-hour presentation, where he showcased traditional and not-so-traditional Asian dishes, including spicy demi-glazed lobster with white rice and vegetables.
"I thought it was really fun and pretty informative," she said. "He kept it entertaining the whole time."
Betsy Lee, the special-projects manager for PCDC, said the first-time event went well.
"We're gaining a lot of awareness and people are very interested and that's great," she said. "We're talking about the celebration, the organization, a combination of both, which is what we wanted to achieve."