Participants compete in a dragon boat race in Chicago, the United States, June 23, 2018. More than 800 contestants of 32 teams took part in the 2018 Chicago Dragon Boat Race at Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown of Chicago on Saturday. (Xinhua/Wang Ping)
CHICAGO, June 23 (Xinhua) -- The 2018 Chicago Dragon Boat Race kicked off on the south branch of the Chicago River Saturday morning, with 32 dragon boat teams participating in this year's competition.
Each team consists of up to 20 members: 18 paddlers, one drummer and one flag catcher. The paddlers rowed their beautifully decorated boats to the beat of the drummer, while the flag catcher pulled the flag positioned in the water at the finish line.
Many U.S. big companies organized teams to compete. United Airlines named its boat as Sky Dragons; Coleman, U.S. Bank, HSBC, American Airlines (AA) also had their own teams. HSBC and AA have participated in the competition for several years.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner showed up at the small wharf where the paddlers put their boats into the river, cheering them on.
Visitors lined their folding chairs on the river bank. It was the first time for 60-year-old Richard Price to attend a Dragon Boat race, but he said he has heard of the event and is familiar with the activity.
"It's about teamwork and cooperation," Price told Xinhua. He came to support his wife, a team member.
Organized by Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, the Chicago Dragon Boat Race came into its 18th session this year. "The original intention in organizing the event is to spread Chinese culture, let more Americans have a knowledge of traditional Chinese culture and participate in traditional Chinese cultural activities," Vanessa Lambert, executive director of Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, told Xinhua.
Of the 800-odd participants this year, about 60 percent are non-Asian Americans.
"We want local people know that besides Chinese cuisine, there are also Chinese language, Chinese culture, Chinese music, Chinese garments, and traditional Chinese activities," Lambert said.
Chinese Dragon Boat race can date back to over 2,000 years, and is a popular sports game among Chinese and Asian communities all over the world.
In Chicago, the annual Dragon Boat race is also a charitable activity. Each year, the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce donates a portion of proceeds from the event to local schools and organizations. In 2017, the proceeds funded nine elementary and middle schools in the Chicago area.
It is estimated that over 10,000 visitors attended the annual event this year.