By Bill Parry
A record-setting 212 teams competed at the 27th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival at Flushing Meadow Corona Park last weekend, drawing an estimated 60,000 visitors to one of the city’s largest cultural events.
Flushing Bank won the event’s Team of the Year award after 93 races were run involving more than 2,500 competitors paddling ornate, 1-ton teak boats 250 or 500 meters across Meadow Lake.
“It was beautiful weather despite thunderstorms Saturday morning. We had a great turnout and great support from the community,” Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival Chairman Henry Wan said.
Dragon Boat races are held around the world. In 1991, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office brought it to the Hudson River as a one-time event, but it was so successful, Wan brought it back and moved it to Flushing Meadows Corona Park the following year to be closer to one of the largest Asian immigration populations in the world: northeast Queens.
This year, it provided visitors with a diversion from daily headlines associated with the threats of war between the United States and North Korea.
“The festival allows people to come and relax in this beautiful park and get away from world events,” Wan said. “It gives them refuge from the news stories, a way to get away from it all and enjoy themselves.”
In addition to the races on Meadow Lake, there was multi-cultural music and entertainment on the festival’s main stage, as well as an International Food Court.
“The goals behind planning an event like this is creating a world-class annual event,” HKDBF Publicist David Archer said. “There is always room for improvement, but this was very successful from our point of view. It went off well both days, with no major issues, and we had happy sponsors, large audiences and happy competitors. Three of the main values behind a good Dragon Boat festival is teamwork, culture and community, (which) are definitely the keys.”
And so are sponsors such as Con Edison, the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Delta Airlines, Cathay Bank and the office of Borough President Melinda Katz. Each fields a team in competition.
“Sponsorships are critical because HKDBFNY is a small non-profit and the city’s Parks Department charges heavy fees for the use of Flushing Meadow Corona Park,” Archer said.
The sporting and cultural event has become a highlight of the summer in Queens.
“The drum beat is a familiar sound of summer and part of the fabric of the World’s Borough,” Katz said. “It’s only in Queens, driving tourism and economic activity in the most diverse place on the planet. This year was no exception, with the festival growing bigger and better every year. Of, course, congratulations to Team Katz for placing in the Municipal Cup!”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr