Dragon Boat Festival in New York

Dragon Boat NYC3

The Dragon Boat Festival, which is known as Duan Wu Jie in Chinese, is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month in the lunar calendar. It commemorates a famous poet in China – Qu Yan – who drowned in a river in the Hunan province, China in 278 B.C. Villagers are believed to have paddled their boats in the river to keep fish from his body.  Since then, it has become an annual cultural event to hold dragon boat races in most parts of China and in other places around the world, such as Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands.

The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York inaugurated the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in 1990.  This event is held annually and the most recent one was held at Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens on August 10th and 11th 2013.  The event featured more than 180 teams competing in the race.

I arrived at the park about 9.30am, there were already many cars parked in the area.  I was lucky to get a parking spot after entering Exit 11 which took us more than 10 minutes to walk to the main stage area where cultural performances, food vendors and the sponsors’ counters were located.  I walked from the east towards the west side of the lake, and saw about 3-4 dragon boats aligning every few minutes to compete in the eliminating heats. Then, I heard drums from the boats, beating vigorously each time a race began. Each Dragon Boat NYCboat’s crew consisted of about 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steerer.  The drummer would act as the heartbeat of the dragon.  She/he would lead the team, observing other boats as director and synchronizing the cadence of the paddlers with the drum beat to be ahead in the race.  The steerer would sit at the rear of the boat to control the boat’s direction.  The sound of the drums never disturbed the gaggles of geese that were swimming calmly along the river. Personally, I thought they were a good target for photographs because they portrayed a calm troupe in contrast to the vigorous boat competition in the background.

As I walked further, there were many tents representing each of the competing teams near the boats’ docking area. Some team members warmed up in several small groups for the race, and others either waited for their turn or relaxed after their races were over.  I noticed visitors were divided into 2 areas. The spectators of the dragon boat race brought their own mats and sat along the banks of the river to view and cheer for their teams. The other group of visitors were at the main stage area enjoying multi-cultural dance performances and Shao-Lin martial arts, and participated in games organized by the Chinese Radio Station 1480 and other organizers.  Food and beverage vendors were also busy providing service to all the visitors to the event.  I expected to find Zongzi, which is the glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves usually served during the dragon boat event or Duan Wu Jie, but it wasn’t sold at this event.  Overall, it was a good summer day for families to enjoy this Chinese traditional cultural event, celebrated around the world.


Location: Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, New York.

Event: Annually in the month of August.

More Info: Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

Recipe for Zongzi: UseRealButter by Jennifer Yu

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