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Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival returns to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in August

The annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will return to Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Saturday, Aug. 7. (Photo by Dean Moses)

To celebrate the Year of the Ox and New York City’s Summer of Recovery, the 2021 Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will return to Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Saturday, Aug. 7.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, HKDBF-NY did not take place in 2020, but organizers plan to restart the 30-year tradition with a scaled down, one-day event while following all current New York state safety protocols.  

The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., replete with live entertainment, food, arts and crafts and traditional dragon boat races on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair, featuring events for the entire family. 

Racing will start at 9 a.m. and events will last throughout the day until approximately 4 p.m., rain or shine. Admission to the event is free.

QNS file photo

At other spots, sponsors and community-based organizations will staff booths to provide giveaways and interact with the public. Food trucks will operate in lieu of the traditional international food court to respect safety norms.

This year’s events will consist of seven special/invitational races that will take place in the morning and afternoon. About 20 teams have been invited to participate and most of them are sponsors, according to festival organizer Henry Wan. 

The morning race will be from 9 to 11:30 a.m. with nine teams competing, including a special race between the mayor’s office and the Queens borough president’s office. The same teams will compete against each other in the afternoon race that will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. 

The landslide activities for the one-day festival will be held in the enclosed Model Airplane Field and racing as usual will be on the Meadow Lake. 

File photo by Christina Santucci

As the city is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the board of directors of HKDBF-NY said all COVID-19 protocols will be followed to ensure the safety of the attendees and racers. 

“We feel it is very important for HKDBF-NY to have an event this year focusing on three major issues: vaccination/public health safety, HKDBF-NY’s contribution to the reopening of the New York City economy, and bringing a focus to the anti-Asian and other hate crime issue,” Wan said. “We look forward to hosting a fully vaccinated audience this year.” 

Only fully vaccinated attendees and racers or those with proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event will be admitted. A vaccine team from New York State of Health will be on hand providing COVID-19 vaccine shots to those who wish to be vaccinated. Northwell Health will also be in attendance with health information related to COVID-19 recovery. 

HKDBF-NY, the largest multicultural festival in New York and the U.S., plans to keep the age-old tradition of dragon boat racing this year and is looking forward to a large 30th anniversary festival in 2022. 

Each colorfully painted boat with a dragon head at the front and dragon tail at the rear are piloted by up to 20 crewmen, including 18 paddlers, a drummer and steers person. This year, HKDBF-NY will be observing all COVID protocols, so the size of racing teams will be reduced. 

Photo by Dean Moses

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. 

Presentations will be held on the main stage of traditional Chinese arts, from the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York; Dance China NY from the New York Chinese Cultural Center; martial arts demonstrations by the ever-popular Shaolin Monks; and a steel drum performance from the CASYM Steel Orchestra. 

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. 

The tradition of Dragon Boat Racing is an annual Chinese rite commemorating the idealistic poet and performer Qu Yuan who drowned himself in the third century B.C. to protest against his emperor’s policies. The locals raced in their boats in an attempt to rescue the poet. To prevent fish and water dragons from eating his body, the locals beat their drums and splashed their paddles. This was the beginning of dragon boat racing. 

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.

Photo by Christina Santucci

Organizers are encouraging attendees to take the MTA or shuttle bus with their MetroCard or with correct change. This year, the organizers have worked with the MTA to ensure easy and safe transportation to the festival site. Festival attendees can take the No. 7 train to the CitiField stop and transfer from there to special MTA shuttle buses that will take them directly to the festival site. 

The Queens Courier, QNS.com and amNewYork Metro are some of the many media and creative partners of the Dragon Boat Festival. 

Other sponsors include HSBC Bank USA. N.A., Con Edison, New York Community Bank, Shanghai Commercial Bank, Flushing Bank, New York State of Health, Resorts World, Verizon, Empire State Bank, Be The Match, Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Northwell Health, Citibus Corp, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens Chamber of Commerce, Office of the Queens Borough President, NYC & Co. and Discover Queens. 

For more information, visit hkdbf-ny.org.

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