29th Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival introduced regular women’s division to this year’s races

Photos by Dean Moses

The 29th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival got a dose of woman power last weekend.

The yearly event returned to Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Aug. 3 and 4, this time introducing a regular women’s division to the races. Since the festival’s inception nearly three decades ago, Festival Chairman Henry Wan said that the organizers have always encouraged women to race.

“That’s women’s power. When we first started we had [a] women’s invitation. We tried to encourage female participation. Now so many of them said, ‘I want our own race,'” said Wan.

Three teams raced in the regular women’s division at this year’s festival but Wan said that the organization hopes to expand the division in the upcoming years. Con Edison, Flushing Bank and Morgan Stanley came in first, second and third place respectively in the women’s 250-meter race and 500-meter race.

A total of 17 teams participated in the women’s invitational races, which resulted in NYPD Detective Familia finishing in first place, IDB H2OMG finishing in second place and New York Wall Street Dragons finishing in third place. Click here for a full list of results from last weekend’s races.

Over 200 teams participated in this year’s races, which also featured live entertainment, food trucks and giveaways. More than 2,500 participants came from across the United States and Canada to race at the 2019 festival.

Through the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Wan started the festival in 1990 when teams raced on the Hudson River in Battery Park City. Now, it runs as an independent nonprofit that receives funding through company sponsorships.

“Our goal is just trying to put together a great community event in the park and we’re very glad to see so much support from the community, from the mainstream media and from the big corporations,” said Wan.

In Chinese culture, dragon boat racing is used to commemorate the life of poet and performer Qu Yan. According to legend, Yan drowned himself in the third century B.C. to protest against the emperor’s policies. Locals raced in dragon boats to save his body while beating drums and splashing paddles. They threw rice dumplings and into the water to prevent fish and water dragons from eating him.

“I think that it is an amazing tribute that so many people show up year after year,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “Thank you for celebrating our 190 countries and 200 languages that we have here in the borough of Queens. Our diversity’s the gift we give the rest of the United States of America and so we are so happy every year when people come out.”

Check out some highlights from the festival in the photo gallery below.

More from Around New York