It’s in Queens
#PickoftheWeek | Queens hosts country’s biggest Dragon Boat festival
Row, row, row your boat…or hang out on the shore and watch tremendous sports drama while enjoying top-notch food, dance, music, and martial arts.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will take place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park over both upcoming weekend days from 9 am to 5 pm. Attendance is free.
This 28th annual event celebrates the Year of the Dog with more than 200 teams racing in Meadow Lake. As per an ancient Chinese tradition, the rowers will paddle colorful, custom-made teak boats with ornate, carved dragon heads and tails. In most divisions, each team has 18 paddlers with a steerer and a drummer also on board.
As cash and prizes are in the mix, the competition will be fierce, but friendly with boats sponsored by everything from multi-national corporations to NYC government agencies to local cultural groups. (This column will root hard for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s squad when it goes against the NYPD, FDNY, and others in the Municipal Invitational.)
Meanwhile on dry land nearby, a special stage will host performances including traditional lion and dragon dances, music, story-telling, and martial arts. (Please see editor’s note.) Asian culture will dominate, but attendees can expect a Mariachi band, a Caribbean steel drum ensemble, and some hip hop.
The food court will have a similar bent with 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 over the two days.
The tradition dates to 278 BC, when Qu Yuan, a poet and court minister, jumped into a river in Hunan. Fishermen rowed boats to save Yuan, throwing rice at his body to protect it from fish, while beating drums and splashing oars to scare away dragons. Yuan died, but dragon boat racing was born.
Motorists are encouraged to park at CitiField and take an MTA shuttle to Meadow Lake.
Editor’s note: There is a new food-and-entertainment venue this year because the formally used site is currently under renovation. The new spot is on the south side of the boathouse. This will mean less on-site parking.
Images: Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival-New York/Bob Dea
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