On Sunday, September 29, 2013, thousands of people flooded into Vladivostok to watch its colourful annual Tiger Day Festival.
The weather was beautiful, and the parade was a great success. Over 4,000 brightly colored costumed participants proceeded down Okeansky Avenue, and at the intersection of Okeansky Avenue and Svetlanskaya Street circled the downtown square. The parade comprised not only units from Vladivostok, but also from other districts of Primorye. Moreover, many local businesses supported the festival, with sponsorship or by entering the procession – or both. In addition, about 5,000 spectators descended downtown to watch the parade.
The parade itself comprised 72 units of schoolchildren and university students. They competed in the main contest – the Best Parade Unit – that is why they used all available things such as balloons, flags, toy animals, ribbons, and masks, to adorn their unit goers. This year, in addition to the Best Parade Unit Contest, we also initiated a contest among cheerleaders representing local educational institutions (schools, universities, colleges, etc.). First, all parade units representing educational institutions of Vladivostok proceeded down the Okeansky Avenue to the main square of Vladivostok city and competed with each other for a cash prize. Parade units were judged on how they construed the theme of the festival.
The task of Phoenix’ parade unit this year was to drive the following idea into the heads of thousand spectators and parade participants: Human civilization with consumer attitude towards the environment is a wrong way leading to a literal dead end. Everyone must begin to think how he/she can live in harmony with nature by making a conscious choice. And we would like to encourage people to begin to think of and try on an image of a New Human who lives in harmony with nature and do not take anything for granted, but gives something back to nature. In order to implement this idea we invited volunteers from N. N. Dubinin Boarding School for Gifted Children, a branch of the Vladivostok State University of Economics and Services. Most of them were dressed up as Na’vi people using the colour theme: blue, black and silver. The students who framed the parade unit were dressed as two main movie characters – Jack and Neytiri. All students had decorated faces with blue face paint. In the middle of the parade unit Na’vi people carried a Tiger (a big toy tiger) and other animals – deer, bears, etc. Green air balloons were used to create the illusion of lush green grass. While proceeding down the street, the students shouted various chants. Other marchers, children and adults of different ages dressed mostly as tigers and with “tiger” make-up, also chanted joyfully various nature conservation slogans, sang songs, read verses and roared as tigers.
Annually, three prizes are awarded to three best parade units with a total value of $3,000 USD ($1,400 USD as the First Place Cash Prize, $950 USD as the Second Place Cash Prize and $650 for the Third Place). This year, the Prize Fund was made up of funds generously provided by the Phoenix Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Wildlife Conservation Society-Russia Program and Amur Branch of WWF-Russia. Also, each parade units were awarded acrylic awards with engraved image of Amur tiger for participation in the parade. As always, it was a real challenge for the jury to choose the best parade unit, because all the participants deserved to win. This year the winners are: 1st place – school # 82, 2nd place – school #28, 3rd place – gymnasium #2.
Then, the Best Cheerleaders Contest began. Each group of cheerleaders representing local educational institutions performed on a special ground between two spectators stands. The best groups of cheerleaders were awarded cash prizes too. The best cheerleading teams are: 1st place – school # 60, 2nd place – art school #7 and Svetlyachok Community Centre, 3rd place – vocational school of Vladivostok State University of Economics and Service.
At 14:00 a festive concert and various contests started on the central square. With great enthusiasm and excitement the children began drawing tigers with chalks on asphalt. There were pavilions where representatives of ecological organizations, such as Phoenix Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund and Land of the Leopard National Park, told about their conservation efforts, handed out small souvenirs with Tiger Day logo, and painted children’s faces in a tiger design using face paint. Those who were interested in glass beads handmade creations had a chance of improving their skills thanks to a master class by Arseniev museum.
At the Phoenix’ pavilion, Natalia Drobysheva, a highly skilled teacher, gave the children a quiz with questions about Amur tigers and other tiger subspecies. Every child who gave a correct answer received a small gift, such as a tiger paw magnet, bookmark with info about tigers, toy tiger or colorful calendars with tiger images. Also, after the parade was over, the toys (tiger, deer, bear, etc.) were taken to the Phoenix’ pavilion and everyone could get photographed with toy animals against forest background. Besides assisting at a Photo Studio, the volunteers dressed up as Na’vi people also helped collecting money to support five orphaned tiger cubs that are kept now at the Rehabilitation Centre for Tigers and Rare Animals and are prepared for return to the wild in 2014. Last year, a similar fundraising campaign was held in order to help rehabilitate a young tigress named Zolushka (Cinderella). Over 15,354 roubles ($495) were collected and sent to the rehab centre then. Thanks to generous donations from local people and financial support from the Phoenix Fund and International Fund for Animal Welfare, as well as hard work of specialists from Inspection Tiger, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution and Wildlife Conservation Society, the tigress was successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild in Bastak Nature Reserve, Jewish Autonomous Province on May 9, 2013. And we are glad to report that the predator accustomed itself to its new home very quickly and demonstrated its wonderful hunting skills. We designed and produced a banner with a story about tigress Cinderella that told the festival participants about her full recovery and successful return into the wild. This year, thanks to kind-heartedness and generosity of local people we managed to collect 25,357 roubles (about $820).
In September, the Tiger Day holiday was also celebrated in Kirovka, Partizansk, Arsenev, Luchegorsk and Novopokrovka towns. The Phoenix Fund provided support for educators of local schools to organize holiday events for children and adults. In October, Tiger Day will be celebrated in Terney.
History of the holiday
The Tiger Day Festival is an annual autumn event held by the Phoenix Fund in cooperation with its partners such as International Fund for Animal Welfare, Wildlife Conservation Society, Amur branch of WWF-Russia, Business Solution and others, and under the auspices of Vladivostok city administration. Since the creation of the festival, funding for the Tiger Day Festival has come largely from the non-profit community and related sources, including the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Dreamworld Conservation Fund, Rufford Foundation, Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance, Whitley Fund for Nature, Rolex Awards for Enterprise and many others.
This year was the 14th annual Tiger Day Festival in Vladivostok. The first event was held to commemorate Amur tigers and leopards in Vladivostok in 2000 and attracted just a few hundreds of visitors. But since its debut in the autumn of 2000, it has grown progressively in size and consequence, becoming the nationally recognized and regionally dominant ecological festival that it is today. It has become Russia’s brightest and biggest ecological holiday, during which there are fun for all ages. Moreover, it is also celebrated internationally now.