WESTBROOK — The clatter of mah-jongg tiles, the sweet smell of steaming vegetable and pork dumplings and the sound of occasional snatches of Mandarin transformed Westbrook Middle School into Maine’s own Chinatown on Saturday.

More than 1,000 people with ties to China showed up to celebrate the Year of the Dragon, setting a new record at the Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine’s annual Chinese New Year celebration.

The Year of the Dragon is considered the luckiest in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle, which may explain the crowd’s festive mood.

Attendees were treated to the association’s Chinese School dance performance, featuring dozens of colorfully costumed children, from toddler size and up; a talk by former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler and others on business and educational exchanges between Maine and China; and tables of arts and crafts demonstrations.

People traveled from across New England to attend the celebration, which is designed to promote the Chinese culture, said Patti Oldmixon, chairwoman. She said the celebration continues to grow every year.

“I love the dumplings,” said Catie Cough, 10, of Portland.

Catie, whose mother, Barbara Cough, adopted her and her sister, Kimberly, 8, from China, said she is a regular at the event.

For Sally Li, 16, an exchange student from China spending the year at Waynflete School in Portland, the event induced a little homesickness for New Year’s celebrations taking place back home.

“It’s a time of family reunion, great dinners and eating fish,” Li said.

However, she said the Westbrook celebration gave her the chance to show others how to do Chinese calligraphy and get a sense of the Chinese community in Maine.

Dawn Ng of Portland led around her twin daughters, Naila and Isis, 3, all three talking in Mandarin.

“I brought them to see the show. It is amazing,” Ng said.

Mai Luu, 8, and her sister, Katie, 12, of Auburn, were escorted to the event by a family friend, Cindy Larock of Lewiston, while their parents were busy running their family restaurant, Wei-Li.

“I like the Chinese New Year because I get money,” Mai said.

Families with children adopted from China and other Asian countries traveled hours to take part. Brian and Michelle Shaw, with their daughters, Mia, 4, and Alicia, 21 months, drove down from Mount Desert.

“We want them to experience Asian culture,” Michelle Shaw said.

Nancy White drove from Blue Hill with her daughters, Sylvia, 9, and Lili, 3, and a niece, all adopted from China. She said an effort is under way in Ellsworth to open a school similar to the Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine’s Chinese School in Portland, which offers language, dance, art and other classes.

“We have American-born Chinese, ex-pats and adoptees,” White said.