Famed dragon Sun Loong has roared back onto the streets of Bendigo to mark Chinese Lunar New Year.
It takes a lot to draw him out of retirement but he was not about to miss a chance to celebrate 2024's year of the dragon, which began on Saturday, 10 February.
The last time he left the Golden Dragon Museum was in 2019 when he performed at his final Bendigo Easter Festival.
Sun Loong had until then been Bendigo's pre-eminent dragon and headlined 50 Easter parades.
He has lost none of his charisma since then.
He got up as close as he could to the crowd on Saturday night, even stopping to get a closer look at a Bendigo Advertiser's team member as it filmed him (see the video above).
Huge crowds cheer as Chinese dragon goes on parade
The dragon's appearance on Saturday upped the ante for event organisers. At least 4000 people were expected to make their way to the entrance of the Golden Dragon Museum to mark Lunar New Year.
The Dai Gum San precinct was already packed an hour-and-a-half before Sun Loong performed.
Food trucks were doing a roaring trade as lion teams, dragons and other performers strutted their stuff.
"People are coming from all over," event coordinator Zoe Willis said.
"I know a lot of people are coming from Melbourne. I've spoken to people who have come from interstate to see this."
The Bendigo Chinese Association is using Lunar New Year as the start of a year-long push to draw people into the city.
The next Easter festival will also embrace the Year of the Dragon theme, M Willis said.
"These aren't the only things we do. We want to keep promoting this culture with the community," she said.
That includes blessings for shops and other institutions around Bendigo.
Ms Willis is part of a lion dancer team kept busy with such jobs over the Lunar New Year period.
The blessings are a riot of dancing and drums that drive off evil spirits and bad luck.
"We were out in Bendigo today and in Melbourne tomorrow," Ms Willis said.
"We are going to be out, basically, every day for the next few weeks."