The dragon boats are back in Queens!
Water racers competed on July 31 and Aug. 1 in time attack trials one week before the iconic Dragon Boat Festival returns to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a more than 30-year tradition celebrating international culture and sportsmanship in New York.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival began in New York in 1990 and has grown exponentially since that time, transforming into the multinational sporting event it is known as today which brings competitors from all over the world.
After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the dragon boat races and multicultural festival will return in a condensed, one-day format on Saturday, Aug. 7, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The July 31-Aug. 1 time trials decided the qualifying teams for Saturday’s races.
Henry Wan, chairman of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival’s board, told amNewYork Metro that this year’s revelries will focus on three major issues: the reopening of businesses, address Anti-Asian and other hate crime issues, and promoting vaccinations/public health and safety.
“We are a non-profit, so we have to serve the community when it is needed. We decided to do something this year, it’s important that we get back to normal,” Wan said. “We are an outdoor, open air event, and we are very careful, and we can only admit those who are fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.”
Wan shared that the festival will be held in two controlled locations, the Boat House for the races, which is fenced in as well as the enclosed Model Airplane Field by Meadow Lake. With the ability to check-in attendees, the event is free and open to the public, per proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test.
While capacity will be limited, the occasion will still host presentations on the Main Stage to showcase traditional Chinese arts, music, dance, and other ensembles. Additionally, instead of hosting a food court there will be food trucks, booths staffed by sponsors, and other community organizations.
About 20 teams who were faithful supporters of the festival were given personal invitations this year to compete. During the time attack, these teams were able to gather together for a day of practicing their alignment, speed, form, and overall gauge their abilities on the long wooden boats.
For Jackson Koo, the Dragon Boat competition has been a long-standing tradition for himself and his team from Con Edison. Although he was disappointed that last year the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he looks forward to seeing his friends and competing once again on Aug. 7.
“The team looks forward to this multicultural event every year. Throughout the difficult year we’ve had, it’s just great to be outdoors and to see each other,” Koo said, sharing that he has been participating in the Dragon Boat competition for 18 years.
Diversity, camaraderie, teamwork, and plain old fun are some of the many attributes competitors and attendees use to describe the Dragon Boat competition — and it’s what keeps them coming back every year.