Year in Review: Queens’ top arts stories of 2021

As New York City gradually reopened, a resilient Queens was making its comeback. Looking back at the art scene here, 2021 was still an exciting year — despite ongoing COVID-19 challenges — filled with memorable happenings across the borough’s creative communities. And there’s little doubt that the most diverse place on the planet, will bounce back even stronger and prouder – fingers crossed.

While Queens Night Market, U.S. Open, and an in-person Queensboro Dance Festival did return, some main events, like Queens Taste, have not. Flushing Town Hall, Queens Museum and Noguchi Museum mixed streaming and on-site content. The Secret Theatre went out of business, but then made a triumphant return in Woodside. And sadly, several galleries, hotels and restaurants didn’t make it, but luckily, the nonprofit arts groups have survived.

Here are the top Queens arts events of 2021.

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival returns to Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Eighteen teams competed in the scaled-down dragon boat races. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Nothing can keep a fine boat down, nor an annual Queens tradition, from fading away — not even COVID-19. 

The crowd was smaller but no less passionate, on Aug. 7, when this eagerly anticipated, multicultural sporting event, returned in all its glory, after getting “sunk” by pandemic restrictions in 2020.

It was a memorable race between two teams: “Queens Rising” represented the Queens borough president’s office, and the “City Hall Dragons” represented the mayor’s office. Who won with flying colors? “Queens Rising.” 

Show stopper: Thousands of wrestling fans fill Queens’ Arthur Ashe Stadium for AEW’s first NYC show

Bryan Danielson unleashes a flying kick. (Photo by Dean Moses)

Wrestling … the way it was meant to be! And the way those loyal fans remembered it growing up: with flashy fights and high-flying action.

Super-excited New York City grapple fans, sporting championship belts, couldn’t get enough of their favorite wrestlers’ hard-hitting antics in the ring, when All Elite Wrestling (AEW) took the Big Apple by storm on Sept. 22, for the eagerly anticipated, bigger than life, AEW Grand Slam extravaganza at Queens’ world-renowned venue – following COVID-19 restrictions.

Jackson Heights author gives Anthony Bourdain fans a behind-the-scenes view into the late celebrity chef’s life

Author Laurie Woolever, a longtime Jackson Heights resident, spent nearly a decade assisting famed chef and author Anthony Bourdain. Her recently published book “Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography,” is a testament to the complicated life of a remarkable person, and provides readers with a behind-the-scenes view into his world from those who knew him best. (Photo credits Ecco / David Scott Holloway)

What made him tick? The enigmatic, multi-talented entrepreneur and author, world traveler and wildly popular TV personality — who visited Queens for his CNN show “Parts Unknown” — seemed to have it all. But, after his tragic suicide, fans and loved ones were left with troubling questions about his complicated world.

In her intriguing book, “Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography,” longtime Queens resident Laurie Woolever — his assistant and cookbook co-author — gives readers a revealing account of his life and loves, through interviews with family, friends, and colleagues. 

Glendale entrepreneur pitches belt product on ‘America’s Big Deal’ television show

Chris Landano on “America’s Big Deal.” (Photo courtesy of America’s Big Deal)

Queens is chock-full of creatives and entrepreneurs, like Glendale resident Chris Landano, a retired forensic photographer for the New York City Fire Department, who competed on that popular USA Network show on Nov. 4, introducing TV viewers to his versatile product and hoping that one day, movers and shakers would take it to the next level.

Landano invented the Trakbelt Modular Belt, after a dangerous, life-changing event. In 2003, he was trapped in a collapsed building in Corona, while photographing search and rescue efforts, and his gear got tangled in debris. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

LIJ Forest Hills nurse receives surprise home makeover from ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’

Drew Barrymore with Victoria Osei, a nurse at LIJ Forest Hills Hospital who received a surprise home makeover on Nov. 5. (Screenshot via Drew Barrymore Show)

Acts of kindness make the world a better place to live, for everyone. A community-minded nurse, who works with the sick and elderly at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Hospital, was pleasantly surprised when she received a dream home makeover on the “The Drew Barrymore Show,” as a special thanks for giving back to her Queens and Long Island communities.

Uniondale, L.I., resident Victoria Osei, was all smiles when she came home on Nov. 5, to her newly renovated and upgraded dwelling, designed by Barrymore.

During the spring of 2020, this hero nurse’s unit was converted into a COVID floor, and with her brave staff, Osei provided leadership and support during that challenging time.