July 26, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will roar back to full strength at Flushing Meadows Corona Park this weekend.
The event, which is the oldest and largest dragon boat festival in the United States, will take place on July 30 and 31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attendance is free and the event will take place rain or shine.
This year’s Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will be the first time the event will be held at full capacity since 2019. The festival was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and organizers held a restricted, one-day version last year. The event also coincides with the Chinese Year of the Tiger.
Organizers say they want this year’s unrestricted festival to symbolize the re-opening of the Queens economy following multiple lockdowns since March 2020.
More than 2,000 rowing crew members are expected to race through Meadow Lake on colorful boats which are designed with dragon heads at the front and sleek dragon tails at the back. Each boat is piloted by up to 20 crewmen, including 18 paddlers, a drummer and steers person.
The participants will be propelling the one-ton, teak boats forward by paddling in unison as the steer barks out directions and the drummer beats their percussion instrument in sync with the paddling.
They’ll vie for thousands of dollars in cash, prizes such as plane tickets, and pride in vessels sponsored by multi-national corporations, athletic groups, local nonprofits, and government agencies.
Divisions include the Regular Open, Corporate Invitational, Sponsors Challenge, Seniors Invitational, Women’s Invitational, Media Challenge, Educational Invitational, and the Municipal Invitational, which will include crews from the NYPD, FDNY, and elected officials. There will also be a Corporate Youth Invitational and Charity Race.
There will be plenty to do on dry land, as well. A cultural program featuring live music by the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York will also be held, along with martial arts by the New York Shaolin Temple, plus tales from professional storyteller Jonathan Kruk. There will also be dragon dancers performing.
Sponsors and community-based organizations will also have booths for giveaways, with food trucks also available to serve food.
An opening parade kicks off the festivities on July 30 at noon, while racing starts at 9 a.m. and runs until approximately 5 p.m. on both days.
Organizers are hoping the festival can draw around 30,000 spectators over the weekend, as it did prior to the pandemic.
Festival organizers will also aim to promote COVID prevention with workers from the New York State of Health on-site offering vaccines and testing. The event, organizers, say, also seeks to inform the public about the rise in hate crimes and various city agencies will be on hand to provide information on how to tackle the problem.
Special MTA shuttle buses to and from the festival site will be available at the Mets-Willets Point 7 train station.
Dragon Boat racing dates back to 278 BC during the Ming Dynasty.
According to legend, Qu Yuan, a poet and court minister jumped into the Ni Lo River in Hunan Province to protest his emperor’s policies. Local fishermen rowed their boats out to save him, while people on shore beat drums and splashed oars to scare away flesh-eating dragons. Yuan drowned, but a tradition was born.