Dragons are coming to Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park this weekend.
The 29th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival begins in Flushing Meadows Corona Park this Saturday, Aug. 3, and Sunday, Aug. 4. The festival will be replete with live entertainment, international foods, arts and crafts, and traditional dragon boat races.
Races will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days of the festival. Over 200 teams and 2,500 participants will compete in the U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championship, the main race. In addition to the championship races, several special races, like The Seniors Invitational, The Media Challenge and The Municipal Invitational, will give onlookers plenty of opportunities to view the diversity of the colorfully decorated teak boats.
Each boat weighs one ton and is custom made by craftsmen in Hong Kong. Colorfully painted with a dragon head at the front and a dragon tail at the back, the boats are staffed by 18 paddlers, a steer person and a drummer to keep the pace.
Some of the fiercely competitive races will be in the name of a good cause. Competitors in The Charity Race will each contribute $2,500 to put in the charity fund. In the end, approximately $15,000 will be donated to various New York charities, chosen by participating teams.
While the dragon boat races may be the main event, a host of other activities will be available during what is the oldest, longest and most traditional dragon boat festival in the United States.
As the racers gracefully splash through the lake, an opening day parade will officially kick off the event for attendees at noon on Saturday. The parade will feature a dragon dance performance from Yee’s Hung Ga International Kung Fu Association and opening remarks from the festival’s emcee Pei-sze Cheng of NBC 4 New York.
In addition to the opening ceremony entertainment, there will be a host of other dance and music performances to grace the stage throughout the weekend.
Echo Music Jam Band, a collaboration between musicians in the Echo music scene, will captivate audiences with their wide range of sound, including pop, rock, alternative and metal music on Saturday.
Also taking the stage Saturday – Dance China New York, a touring dance company comprised of dancers from China, Taiwan and the U.S.; Rosedale, an EDM artist with an international presence; School of Rock, a classic rock group made up of talented students; and the NY Shaolin Temple Kung Fu Association.
Sunday’s performance will be equally captivating, featuring the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York, Mariachi Aguila y Plata, Gong Music, Flamenco Latino and the legendary keyboardist Bruce Katz and his band, the Bruce Katz Band, who will be headlining the main stage.
Katz, who has released 10 albums of his own and who has appeared on 70 others, has a strong connection with The Allman Brothers Band, having toured with the classic rock band a number of times. Additionally, Katz was a member of Gregg Allman’s Band for six years and Butch Truck’s Freight Train Band for several years.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, Jonathan Kruk, a master storyteller, will tell fables, myths, medieval legends and lore of the Hudson River. Kruk will also share the story of how dragon boat racing first got its start.
Legend has it, dragon boat racing began around 300 B.C. with a poet and activist named Qu Yuan, who lived in the Chu state during the Zhou dynasty. A frequent critic of his government and its king, Qu Yuan, was sent into exile.
While away, Chu was invaded. Feeling helpless to help the home he loved, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Mi Lo River in 278 B.C.
As an activist, leader and poet, Qu Yuan was loved, and fishermen nearby raced out into the water to try to save him. They splashed their oars in the water to prevent fish from eating the patriot’s body and threw rice dumplings into the water, an offering to the poet’s spirit.
The fishermen could not save Qu Yuan but a new tradition was born.
And after 29 years, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York has become a tradition unto itself, while remaining true to its origin.
The first Dragon Boat Festival in New York took place in 1990 on the Hudson River near downtown Manhattan. Several years later, it was relocated to Flushing Meadows Park, where it remains to this day.
Each year, thousands of people descend on the park to witness tradition come to life.
The Queens Courier and QNS.com is one of many media and creative partners of the Dragon Boat Festival.
Other sponsors include the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, HSBC Bank, Toyota, Con Edison, New York Community Bank, Shanghai Commercial Bank, Flushing Bank, UPS, Sterling Bank, Queens Chamber of Commerce, the Office of the Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Visit hkdbf-ny.org for more information.