Jul. 31, 2023 By John Schilling
To celebrate the “Year of the Rabbit,” the 31st Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York (HKDBF-NY) will take place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Aug. 12 and 13.
HKDBF-NY, the oldest and largest traditional boat festival in the country, will feature boat races, food, and free live entertainment. The tradition of boat racing is rooted in an annual Chinese rite that commemorates Qu Yuan, an idealistic poet and performer who drowned himself in 278 B.C. “to protest against his emperor’s policies.”
Inspired by the locals racing in boats to rescue Yuan and prevent water dragons from “eating his body,” the Dragon Boat Races utilize colorful teak boats customly made in Hong Kong. Each boat weighs one ton, features a Dragon head at the front and tail on the back, and is operated by up to 20 crew members during the races.
Like years past, this year’s special races include sponsors, media, women, seniors, youth, education, healthcare and families, as well as the Municipal Invitational, which will feature teams from the offices of Mayor Eric Adams, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
For the first time, HKDBF-NY will include the “Hello Hong Kong Invitational,” a new race sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, as well as a new Chinese Cultural Invitational. The most challenging race, however, will take place on Aug. 13 with the U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championship Race.
“There are also special Educational and Health Care Invitationals and the always exciting and rewarding Charity race, featuring funds raised by the participating teams to be donated to the charities designated by the winning teams,” the Hong Kong Tourism Board released in a statement. “Over the years the Charity Race has contributed in excess of $300,000 to various NYC charities.”
As a whole, HKDBF-NY promises families a weekend of sports and multicultural fun that starts with an opening ceremony on Aug. 12 at noon. During the ceremony, the Malaysian United Group Dragon Dance Team will lead racers to the HSBC main stage, which will officially mark the start of the festival.
While the races happen throughout each day, the main stage will remain active by showcasing “multicultural artists and traditional music/dance from across the globe.”
This includes performances by the Shaolin Martial Artists; Dance China NY of the New York Chinese Cultural Center; Japanese dancer Junko Fisher; Manhattan Taiko, the Japanese drumming group; the Chinese Musical Ensemble of New York; and violinist Daisy Jopling.
In addition, HKDBF-NY will feature “Dragon Tales” with master storyteller Jonathan Kruk, as well as a performance from the Latin Jazz Express that will pay tribute to the late Latin Jazz and Mambo musician Tito Puento Sr. in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Aside from the sights and sounds, HKDBF-NY will also offer plenty to eat, including a multicultural food court and various food trucks. This lineup includes Cousins Maine Lobster, Kapamilya Filipino Food Truck, Tacos el Mole Corp. Mexican Food Truck, Bayside Lemonade, Mao’s Bao, Catmint Wheel Cake, MeatAsiaBBQ, Menya Jiro, Cano Coffee and Malaysian Food Inc.
With plenty of fun to offer the entire family, HKDBF-NY organizers expect a big turnout.
“For thirty successful years HKDBF-NY has attracted a diverse, multicultural audience of more than 20,000 attendees throughout North America,” HKDBF-NY released in a statement. “This year with 100+ teams participating involving more than 1,000 competitors from across the U.S. and Canada, this year’s festival is expected to be notable for its 2 day return, scale and fierce competition.”
HKDBF-NY will be held rain or shine in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Aug. 12 and 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.