25th anniversary Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is biggest one yet

By Bill Parry

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival last weekend at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was bigger than any previous year. The estimated crowd of more than 60,000 visitors saw more teams compete than ever before, with over 200 crews racing the ornate one-ton boats across the park’s Meadow Lake.

“It was our 25th anniversary so we went big in every way,” Festival Chairman Henry Wan said. “We had so many people because the weather was good and the support was overwhelming. I would say this was out biggest festival ever with more vendors, more multi-cultural performers and more sponsors.”

This year’s roster of sponsors included the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, HSBC Bank, Con Edison, Shanghai Commercial Bank, New York Hospital Queens, and many more. Each group provides the team, with at least 18 paddlers, a navigator and a drummer, who compete for prize money and free airline tickets to Hong Kong.

“Goldman Sachs was a big winner this year and so was HSBC,” Wan said.

Many in the crowd cheered each time any of the three NYPD Dragon Boat teams raced because each boat was named for one of the three NYPD detectives who were assassinated in the line duty in the last year; Brian Moore, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Chief Diana Pizzuti, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Queens North and the founder of NYPD Dragon Boat, said it was the first time that fallen colleagues were honored in such a manner.

The family of Liu attended the festival.

“I personally greeted them on the dock and we were thrilled when his boat came in second in their division,” Wan said. The FDNY also took part and for the first time, an all-women’s team represented “The Bravest.”

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival took place on the Hudson River with just 10 teams in its first two years but moved to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to be closer to one of the largest Asian immigrant populations in the world. Mayor Bill de Blasio proclaimed Aug. 8 and Aug. 9 as “Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York Days” and Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a citation of congratulations for its silver anniversary.

Numerous elected officials, including Borough President Melinda Katz and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), attended the Opening Ceremony Saturday. Public Advocate Letitia James presented Wan with a framed proclamation from her office.

“Today we’re going to again celebrate our diversity,” James said. “And it’s absolutely wonderful that an African-American woman, who’s speaking Cantonese, who comes from Brooklyn but is speaking in Queens, who represents the city of New York is here to celebrate this wonderful festival. That’s what’s so beautiful about New York City!”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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