East Meets West

Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival celebrates 26 years

A decorative boat figurehead in the style of a Chinese Traditional Dragon on the Sea.With more than 200 teams competing this year, the oldest, largest and most traditional dragon boat celebration in the U.S. returns to Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park this weekend for the 26th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival.

Each Saturday since June 18, rain or shine, dozens of dragon boat teams have been participating in practice sessions in preparation for the festival date.

_MG_9910.CR2-001“Health and wellness events are very popular in the corporate world,” said Henry Wan, a founding member of the festival that began in 1990. “Some teams will come out once in a while to practice; some teams will come out every single weekend. Some are very serious about the festival and some are just here to have fun.”

Annie Wu, team captain for EmblemHealth, has been participating in Flushing dragon boat races for four years for the Emblem corporate team, which won third place last year.

When she learned that her company was sponsoring a local team, she said she was one of the first people to sign up.

Dragonracegif2“I never wondered if I had the strength or ability to do it, but I wanted to try it for the first time,” said Wu. “We are all volunteers, and no one really knows exactly what to do. We’re all in the same boat.”

Jackson Koo, the Con Edison team captain, shared similar challenges and excitement, but also said, “The most difficult thing about training is just getting here; once we get here it’s just that it’s all about working together, jelling as one unit.”

He said despite the races being so short and fast, it’s exciting. “It’s a huge adrenaline rush hearing everyone cheering for you as you’re crossing the finish line.”

The Columbia Lion Dragon, a 30-man alumni crew of the university since 2013, is managed by Pauline Lem and placed first last year.

“We like the sun; we like the water; we like athletics; we like competing,” said Lem.

Through the registration fee, the boats are supplied by the festival organizers. Teams use a boat for their heat (race) then vacate the boat so another team can use it.

AS2A7424.CR2“The newer boats are made of fiberglass,” said Wan, who is the only founding member that is still involved with the festival. “Our original boats came from Hong Kong and are made from teak wood. They are a treasure.”

The colorful tradition, a family-oriented sporting and cultural festival featuring racing, food, entertainment, arts and sponsor booths will be held on Saturday, Aug. 6, and Sunday, Aug. 7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, rain or shine.

Visit www.hkdbf-ny.org for more details.

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Christy Hinko
Christy Hinko is the editor of Glen Cove Record Pilot.

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