Located on the same grounds as 1964/65 World’s Fair and sharing dates with the XXXI Olympics commencement, the NYC Dragon Boat Festival proved to be a great celebration both of sport and family.
Led by lion and dragon dancing teams of percussionists, the weekend kicked off with a parade, introducing a record-breaking lineup of dragon boat teams: 213.
“This is why New York City is great,” noted Public Advocate Letitia James during the event’s opening ceremonies. Queens-based Congresswoman Grace Meng used her time on stage to encourage attendees to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
Kelli Shea from Sno Biz Shaved Ice served pretzels, churros and shaved ice for the third year at the festival and was pleased that, unlike in years past, her trailer’s position had a view of the boat races. “It’s really interesting to see,” she said.
The tradition of dragon boat racing dates back to the third century B.C. and is held to commemorate the idealist poet and reformer Qu Yuan who protested against his emperor’s policies by drowning himself. The race signifies a search and rescue party and the accompanying beating of drums is meant to fend off fish and water dragons from devouring Yuan’s body.
“We’ve been practicing for the last three months every Sunday morning and Thursday evening,” said Mike of the Flushing Bank boat team. “We’ve won — so far — two bronze medals.”
Mike revealed that Flushing Bank had a combined 14 races to compete in over the two-day period, meaning there wasn’t much of a break for the lake at Flushing Meadows Park this past weekend. Among the cash and prizes awarded to winners were six round-trip tickets to Hong Kong, courtesy of Delta.
Riffing off of the fact that the event cost nothing, an event attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, who was enjoying dance from New York Chinese Cultural Center noted that “[this is] the only place you can see anything like this for under $150.”
Unlike many other sporting events, the dragon boat races are not televised. Because the event can only be witnessed by those present in real time, those who actually see the winners are among the lucky few.
A 12-year-old boy was just happy to spend time with his family and watch the boat race: “I thought that the red team was going to win, and then the blue team caught up. It was pretty cool,” he said. His dad and little brother were a few feet away, tossing a frisbee.