By Lisa Autz
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in Queens draws hundreds and thousands of people to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the championship dragon boat racing, the opening parade and the variety of unexpected free attractions.
The 23rd annual free festival exists with the help of local and multinational corporations that allow visitors to enjoy the event without cost. Big-name supporters like Verizon and Toyota and local supporters such as Empire City Casino and TimesLedger Newspapers bring event booths, giveaways and promotions that will provide valuable mementos to the crowd during the concerts and races.
The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, the festival’s benefactor, started the festival in 1990 and continues to support the event this year. The company, which fosters business and cultural connections between Hong Kong and New York, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its New York office.
“As part of the 30th anniversary celebration, we will be handing out souvenirs with the 30th anniversary theme at our games booth during the festival. To share the excitement of our 30th anniversary celebration, we will also be sponsoring three 30th anniversary trophies for the invitational races this year,” said Anita Chan, director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York.
More than 180 teams will participate in this year’s race, including corporate teams, educational institutions, government agencies and community teams, according to Chan.
One organization that will be active in the water as well as on land is the first-time sponsor, Emblem Health. The sponsors will be promoting healthier living and Emblem Health neighborhood care facilities opening up in Chinatown. Emblem Health will have a 22-foot-long truck with a basketball hoop along with jump ropes, kiosks for information and pamphlets on healthier living. There will also be a chance to take a photo with a newly pledged commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
“Our focus is on breaking down barriers that keep people from being healthy. Tell us what your commitment is to living healthier — take a placard with a commitment already on it or write your own commitment and pledge it and take a picture in less than three minutes,” said David Flemister, director of grand strategy and community marketing at Emblem Health.
Emblem Health Neighborhood Care has already opened in Queens at 206-12 Linden Blvd. and is planning on opening in Chinatown later this fall. The facility will feature pharmacists, social workers and others to help people in need.
“The sponsors always have a whole number of souvenirs and freebies to give out to the spectators,” promises Henry Wan, chairman of the Dragon Boat Festival.
Wan also explained that Verizon usually hosts an active booth with a gaming center and interactive devices.
Toyota will also be sponsoring this year and is said to bring a few vehicles to the festival as part of an audience-participation activity.
Other tents that always gather a large crowd are the arts-and-crafts tent and nonprofit tents, according to Wan. The arts-and-crafts tent will feature more than 15 local artists demonstrating traditional Chinese crafts, including kite-making, rice doll-making, calligraphy, bead stringing and more.
Nonprofits such as AARP, Boy Scouts of America and China Institute will have tents for the chance to inform the community on their causes.
“This free festival only can be produced because of the sponsor support we receive. They all bring extensive community support to the event and most have freebies and promotions going on,” said David Archer, director of marketing for the Dragon Boat Festival.