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Dragon Boat Festival near

The biggest multi-cultural celebration in the city – the 18th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park – is almost here!
This free international event, which takes place on August 2 and 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature the famous dragon boat race on Meadow Lake. This race is not your typical boat race.
For one thing, the boats are special - they are narrow, dragon-shaped, made of teak and painted in different colors. Also, each one of them has a drummer on board whose beating sets the speed for the vessel.
These unusual elements have their roots in the third century B.C. when Chinese poet and reformer Qu Yuan drowned himself to protest against the emperor’s policies. In an effort to rescue him, the locals went to into the water, racing in boats. To prevent fish and water dragons from eating the poet’s body, the people beat drums and splashed paddles.
Ever since, dragon boat racing has been an annual rite in China commemorating this poet. Over the years, dragon boat racing evolved into an international activity and has been gaining in popularity worldwide, said David Archer, marketing director of the festival in New York.
Because of dragon boat racing’s wide appeal, the event generally draws over 40,000 spectators, said Archer. They are not only from all over the city and the country, but also from around the world, from places like Canada, for example, which is big on water sports, Archer explained.
This year’s New York celebration will feature 150 competing teams, with 12 to 20 people on each, said Archer. He explained that these participants are amateurs from clubs and employees of the companies that sponsor the festival.
This year’s teams include the Chinatown YMCA, the KeySpan Corporate Team, the Dragon Boat Club of Boston and the Aquaholics Dragon Boat Team from Toronto, Canada, according to festival organizers.
The teams have been practicing for the event at places such as Meadow Lake every weekend since the beginning of June, said Archer.
Besides the boat racing, the two-day festival will feature cultural events on land - martial arts performed by Shaolin monks, Mexican dance and Chinese music, among other things.
“It’s a really multicultural stage, stuff that appeals to families,” said Archer.
On Sunday at noon, the famous dumpling-eating contest will take place.
The festival is sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, a permanent representative of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

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