The 23rd annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, with its spectacle of colorful vessels, is set to ply the waters of Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Park on Saturday and Sunday.
The two-day event will feature races between 180 teams and more than 2,400 participants from across the country and Canada. Up for grabs are the city title, which will be held on Saturday, and the U.S. championship on Sunday, plus prizes and cash.
The festival will be held rain or shine from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. On land, visitors will be able to cheer on their favorite teams as well as take part in crafts programs and watch multicultural entertainment. All events are open free to the public.
The teak boats used in the competition are custom made in Hong Kong and weigh a ton. They feature a dragon head at the front and a tail at the rear. Each team has 18 paddlers, a drummer and a steerperson.
The opening day parade begins at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Entertainment that day features the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York; BAAM, an indie rock band; the Italian I Giullari di Piazza; and Shaolin masters performing martial arts.
Sunday’s acts include Damien Bassman and Broadway musicians, tap dancing, the Bailen Brothers on vocals and instruments, Mariachi Aguila y Plata, the African Mawuena Kodjovi Trio and another performance by Shaolin masters.
In the arts and crafts tent will be 15 artists demonstrating traditional Chinese crafts such as calligraphy, rice doll making, kite making, ribbon flowers and more. Children will be able to make their own crafts following the demonstrations.
Also for youngsters will be the balloon man making all kinds of creatures and face painting.
In addition, there will be a food court and booths with giveaways staffed by sponsors of the event and several community-based organizations.
The festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a respected Chinese leader who was disgraced in ancient times and committed suicide by drowning himself in a river. Nearby fishermen tried to save him but they failed. The races symbolize the rescue attempts.
Festival organizers ask visitors to take public transportation to Flushing Meadows as there is no parking around the lake. Parking is available at Citi Field. A shuttle bus to the racing area will be available outside the subway station at Citi Field. Regular transit fees will be charged.