BY BROOKE RUTMAN
The 25th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival returns to Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Aug. 8 and 9.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival (HKDBF-NY) is the biggest multicultural festival in New York and the largest of its kind in the U.S. The HKDBF-NY uses the tradition of dragon boat racing. Teak boats are custom-made by craftsman in Hong Kong, which are piloted by 20 crewman. For 24 years, the HKDBF-NY has attracted a multicultural audience throughout North America of more than 50,000 attendees.
This year’s 25th anniversary festival is expected to draw fierce competition with more than 2,500 participants competing. The festival takes place on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair, with an opening day parade at noon on Aug. 8.
Racing begins at 9 a.m. and events will last until approximately 5 p.m. on both days. Various events for the whole family are held during the U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championships, including a photo contest, the traditional dragon dance, music and other diverse performances, and demonstrations of arts and crafts.
Six new 10-person boats from China and several Special/Invitational Cup races are planned for this year’s races. The races include the 25th Anniversary Invitational, the HSBC 150th Invitational, and the Municipal Invitational race with teams from elected officials.
Many officials were invited to field a team, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Rep. Grace Meng and Assemblyman Ron Kim, as well as NYC government agencies. Teams are expected to race for their companies in the Corporate Invitational.
“The board and I are very proud and excited to have been a part of the growth of the festival from ten boats on the Hudson 25 years ago when the festival began, to commemorate the opening of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, to this year’s festival with over 200 teams participating in celebration of the 25th anniversary. HKDBF-NY has become one of the largest international dragon boat festivals in the world and a much-anticipated event on NYC’s summer calendar,” said Henry Wan, chairman of the HKDBF-NY board.
The tradition of dragon boat racing is an annual Chinese rite commemorating the idealistic poet Quan Yuan, who drowned himself to protest against his emperor’s policies. Locals raced in their boats in an effort to rescue the poet. The locals splashed their paddles and beat their drums to prevent his body from being eaten, which led to the beginning of dragon boat racing.
Parking is very limited, so attendees are urged to use public transportation. Attendees can take the 7 train to the Mets-Willets Point stop, and transfer from there to special MTA shuttle buses that will take them directly to the festival site.