Dragon boat festival kicks off despite rain in New York

Source: Xinhua| 2018-08-12 05:47:15|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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NEW YORK, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- The wet weather failed to stop drums from beating for the 28th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in the Meadow Lake at the Corona Park in Queens, the easternmost borough of New York City, on Saturday.

More than 200 well-trained teams gathered at 9 a.m. on the site of the 1964 World's Fair to race on long boats while paddling to the beat of their boat's drummer. The competition will continue on Sunday.

The two-day event, first organized in 1991, has grown and evolved into the largest dragon boat festival, and one of the largest multi-cultural festivals in the New York metropolitan area, Henry Wan, chairman of the festival host committee, told Xinhua.

As cash and prizes are in the mix, the competition is expected to be fierce, but also friendly, with boats sponsored by multi-national corporations, New York City government agencies and local cultural groups.

For some, the festival is more of an annual reunion of old friends than a competitive sport.

"We're just as much friends from high schools, we do it and stand out a lot, we always have tons of fun, It is always a great time for people to come back," said Bobby Li, who joined the race with his high school classmates eight years ago.

Anthony Demmasi with the UPS team said they were inspired by a YouTube video on boat racing fours years ago.

"It's pretty cool. You learn how to better pace yourself, learn the techniques, learn how to train each other, train new people that are coming in. Mainly because we keep on learning, we keep on showing new people the experience. It's a lot of fun," Demmasi said.

During the celebration, a special stage was set up on dry land to host performances including traditional lion and dragon dances, music, story telling, and martial arts while the food court offered plenty of dumplings, fried rice, and pork belly on sale, matched with South American, Indian, and other cuisines.

More than 50,000 attendees are expected in the two days.

As per an ancient Chinese tradition, the rowers paddle teak boats made by a small coterie of craftsmen in Hong Kong, weighing one ton each, and colorfully painted with a dragon head at the front and dragon tail at the rear. The boats are managed by up to 20 crewmen, including 18 paddlers, a drummer, and a steersperson.

The tradition dates back to 278 BC, when Qu Yuan, a poet and minister, jumped into a river in Hunan. Fishermen rowed boats to save Qu, throwing rice at his body to protect it from being eaten by fish, while beating drums and splashing oars to scare away dragons. Qu died, but dragon boat racing was born.