Flushing Meadows hosts 29th Annual Dragon Boat Festival this weekend

A dragon boat team races during a previous festival. Photo courtesy of Queens EDC.

A dragon boat team races during a previous festival. Photo courtesy of Queens EDC.

By Rachel Vick

In 278 B.C., a patriotic poet in China jumped into a river in despair over the invasion of his homeland. Legend has it that a local fisherman raced to save him, but was too late. 

Though the poet died, the tradition that inspired the Dragon Boat Festival was born. It’s a tradition that endures to this day, and is upheld by communities in Queens.

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival returns to Flushing Meadows Park where visitors will experience a multicultural celebration, complete with races, delicious food and music performances.

More than 200 boat teams will participate in this year’s festival. They are split up among multiple events, including a municipal event that features teams of elected officials, and a charity event, where donations are made to the winners’ chosen charities.

Events include musical performances, ranging from blues headliner Bruce Katz to a Mariachi band to Cantonese traditional music from the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York, one of the oldest Chinese orchestras in the US. 

The New York Shaolin Temple will conduct several kung fu demonstrations throughout the weekend.

An arts and crafts tent will feature artist sessions and demonstrations for children, including traditional Chinese crafts like origami, knotting and paper and silk flower making. There will also be a storyteller.

The colorful boats, decorated to resemble dragons, each weigh about one ton and are piloted by up to 18 rowers, a drummer and steer person.

Races begin at 9 a.m. and the opening parade begins at noon on Saturday, Aug. 3. Festival admission is free.