14th Dragon Boat Races Brighten Meadow Lake
More than 100 well-trained teams, involving more than 1,000 participants from across the United States and Canada, came to the 14th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival on Flushing Meadows-Corona Park’s Meadow Lake this past weekend, August 7 and 8 to compete for more than $60,000 in cash and prizes. The New York City Championship Race followed the opening day parade at noon on Saturday, August 7. On the following day, August 8, the U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championship Races were held, with competitors striving for their share of $14,000 in cash prizes—$6,000 for the U.S. Open Championship, $4,000 in the Mixed Division and $4,000 in the Women’s Division—plus more than $50,000 in round trip airline tickets to Hong Kong and other Asian cities to be shared by overall winners in all divisions, provided courtesy of Airline Alliance race sponsors Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines and Northwest Air.
Dragon boat racing is an annual Chinese rite commemorating poet and reformer Qu Yuan, who lived in the third century B.C.. Banished from the imperial court, Qu Yuan lived in a small fishing village on the shores of a lake. The poet drowned himself in protest of his emperor’s policies. Local fishermen raced in their boats in an attempt to rescue Qu Yuan, but were too late so save him. To prevent fish and water dragons from eating his body, they beat their drums and splashed their paddles. Modern-day dragon boats are custom made of teak wood by a small coterie of craftsmen in Hong Kong. Weighing one ton each, colorfully painted with a dragon head at the prow and a dragon tail at the stern, the boats are powered by a crew of up to 20 people, including 18 paddlers, a drummer and steersman.
Racing started at 9 a.m. and lasted until 5 p.m. Other festival events included a media challenge, special youth, charity, women’s, and sponsor races as well as traditional Chinese arts—martial arts demonstrations, the traditional Dragon dance, music and other performances— and demonstrations of folk arts and crafts, an ethnic food court and booths staffed by sponsors of the event and many community-based organizations.
The Final races, all 500 meters in length, started at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday. Competing in the Regular - Youth Division were boats crewed by members of Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association – Youth, Argosy International and MAD. Vying for the Women’s U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championship were the Schuylkill Dragons, Women in Canoe, DCH Dragon Boat Racing Club and Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival teams. The Norwalk’s Organized Chaos, MAD, DCH Type GSR and Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association competed for the U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championship.