July 26, 2019 Staff Report
Row, row, row your boat…or hang out on shore and watch unique sports drama while enjoying food, live performances, children’s activities, and martial arts.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will take place in – and around – Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Saturday, Aug. 3, and Sunday, Aug. 4.
Attendance is free, and the event will take place rain or shine.
More than 200 teams will compete in this 29th annual competition, the largest and oldest dragon racing event in the United States. The estimated 2,500 competitors will maneuver colorful, one-ton, teak boats with ornate, carved dragon heads at the front and tails at the back.
In most divisions, each squad has 18 paddlers, a guide or steer person, and a drummer. They’ll vie for thousands of dollars in cash, prizes such as plane tickets, and pride in vessels sponsored by multi-national corporations, athletic groups, local nonprofits, and government agencies.
Divisions include the Regular Open, Corporate Invitational, Sponsors Challenge, Seniors Invitational, Women’s Invitational, Media Challenge, Educational Invitational, and the Municipal Invitational, which will include crews from the NYPD, FDNY, and elected officials. (Mayor Bill de Blasio will probably not be there, but his office always has a boat.)
This year also has a Nonprofit Invitational, which will include representatives from such local agencies as the Lewis Latimer House Museum, Queens Botanical Garden, and Queens Theatre.
Meanwhile on dry land, an international food court will feature stands peddling mostly Asian fare, especially dumplings, pork belly buns, and soy sauce drum sticks, as well as South American, Indian and other cuisines.
It’s the Year of the Pig, and a stage will host traditional lion and dragon dances, martial arts demonstrations by the Shaolin Monks, and live performances. The Bruce Katz Band, a contemporary Blues group, headlines the music section. Master storyteller Jonathan Kruk returns to spin his “Dragon Tales.”
In other spots, children will learn calligraphy, kite-making, paper-cutting, and other crafts. The Sing Tao Newspaper will organize family activities, including a look at past photo entries and a preview of this year’s annual Photo Contest, which is open to all.
An opening parade kicks off the festivities on Aug. 3 at noon, while racing starts at 9 a.m. and runs until approximately 5 p.m. on both days.
Organizers expect more than 30,000 spectators over the weekend this year.
On-site parking is limited, and attendees are encouraged to take the 7 train to the Mets-Willets Point station, where a specially chartered MTA shuttle bus will run to Meadow Lake and back the entire time. Motorists can park at Citi Field and take the same shuttle.
Dragon Boat racing dates back to 278 BC during the Ming Dynasty. According to legend, Qu Yuan, a poet and court minister, jumped into the Ni Lo River in Hunan Province to protest his emperor’s policies. Local fishermen rowed their boats out to save him, while people on shore beat drums and splashed oars to scare away flesh-eating dragons. Yuan drowned, but a tradition was born. Currently, countless Dragon Boat races take place throughout China and the Chinese Diaspora on the fifth day of the fifth lunar year.