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New boats for Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival unveiled in Flushing

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

New boats for the 25th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival scheduled for next month at Flushing Meadows Corona Park were unveiled Thursday morning with an awakening ceremony of ritual blessing before the big races.

According to organizers, the Dragon Boat Festival is the largest multicultural event of its kind in New York, drawing over 15,000 people last year.

At Thursday’s event, a demonstration by Shaolin martial artists began the kickoff of the pre-race festivities, and then officials, event organizers and sponsors were guided by a Buddhist monk in blessing the boat with incense and dotting the eyes of the carved dragons with red paint.

Organizer Henry Wan highlighted the variety of offerings to be enjoyed at the festival, including a land performance, stage performance, martial arts, multicultural song and dance, as well as souvenir giveaways from local and corporate sponsors.

“It’s an event for the whole family, and it’s free, so come and visit us,” Wan said.

The two-day racing festival has grown considerably since its 1991 debut, which commemorated the New York arrival of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, from 10 boats in the first year to over 200 in 2015. Racers are competing to win cash and prizes, and to encourage past participants to be a part of the event this year. A “senior” discount will also be available for those over the age of 40.

The Chinese tradition of dragon boat racing is an annual rite to honor Qu Yuan, a outspoken poet who drowned himself in third century B.C. to protest against the policies of the emperor in his home state. According to the legend of Qu Yuan, the local fishermen raced out to the river to save the poet, but were unsuccessful. During their frantic dash they beat drums and splashed their paddles to prevent fish and water dragons from eating his body, a move which is echoed by drums still used in today’s races.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that the event was a chance to welcome an international crowd and show off the cultural offerings of Queens. She was involved in the event’s first year while working in the office of former Borough President Claire Shulman.

“It is exactly what Queens is about: having an international event where folks are coming from all over the world,” Katz said. “But really, the greatest participants are those that live right here, that have chosen to make Queens their home.”

Suzanne Brienza, an area manager of HSBC Bank who will be rowing as part of its team, the Red Dragons, said that her company has been practicing every week since April in anticipation of the competition. The bank has been an active part of the race as one of its original sponsors, and Brienza felt confident of their ability to win.

“It all depends on being in sync, and then the speed,” Brienza said.

This year’s festival will take place on the weekend of Aug. 8 and 9 at Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Races will begin at 9 a.m. and the festivities will last on both days until 5 p.m.


Dragon Boat Festival events

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


SATURDAY, August 4

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Chinese Music Ensemble of New York

Founded in 1961 this ensemble is the oldest and only full Chinese orchestra in the United States and the Americas. Its present membership of nearly 50 musicians plays practically every type of Chinese music on Chinese instruments, both ancient and modern. In this performance a smaller ensemble plays a selection of their repertoire. www.chinesemusic.org

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Opening Ceremonies

Lions and Dragon Dancing Teams with Percussionists welcome all and, together with invited dignitaries, officially kick-off the 22nd annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York.

1 – 2 pm

The Bailen Brothers

Twin brothers, vocalists and instrumentalists, David (on drums) and Daniel (on bass), lead the band with their pop, R&B, and rock music. Their albums focus on achieving great songs with singable melodies that are both stimulating compositionally and lyrically. www.thebailenbrothers.com/

2 – 3 pm

Shaolin Masters

Warrior monks from the Shaolin Temple perform martial arts. In the history of the Shaolin Temple, founded in 495 AD, generation after generation of monk generals and soldiers protected the temples from wars and riots of society.

3 – 4 p.m.

Diana Leong and His Music, with IIISpokinn

Composer/cellist/trombonist Dana Leong blends jazz, classical and pop to create a signature sound. Dana’s pioneering collage of musical styles has garnered critical acclaim and wowed audiences around the world. He has collaborated with top jazz artists including Paquito D’Rivera, Christian McBride, Dafnis Prieto, and Henry Threadgill; and has worked with such diverse artists as Ray Charles, Barry White, Kanye West, Wynton Marsalis, Bjork, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yoko Ono and Lila Downs. www.danaleong.com

SUNDAY, August 5, 2012

10 – 11 a.m.

Mariachi Agulia y Plata

This popular mariachi band will welcome all to the second day of the festival and set the tone for a lively, energetic day.

11 a.m. – Noon

New York Chinese Cultural Center, Dance China NY

The resident company from America’s premier traditional Chinese dance company, which includes international renowned artists, performs traditional and folk dances transporting audiences to a world of colorful myths, historical drama and timeless beauty.

Noon – 1 p.m.

Brave New World

Multi talented composer/playwright/performer Napua Davoy embraces the 21st century with a hybrid of influences and of her recent award winning musical Stella Rising. Backstage writes, “Davoy composes gorgeous music, plays a sensuous piano and has an exquisitely expressive voice.” Performing original and pop/jazz gems, she is joined by guitarist Dave Moreno and bassist Gaku Takanashi. www.napuadavoy.com

1 – 2 p.m.

Shaolin Masters

Warrior monks from the Shaolin Temple perform martial arts. In the history of the Shaolin Temple, founded in 495 AD, generation after generation of monk generals and soldiers protected the temples from wars and riots of society.

2 – 3 p.m.

Ballet Folklorico Nuevo Amanecer de Jesus Cortez

Ballet Folklórico combines elements of Latin American culture, history, folklore, and religion with rhythm and body movement. In the customary dances of Mexico, performers wear traditional dress, often with ornate beading, embroidery, weaving and ribbons. Their dancing tells stories which often involves flirtation, love or jealousy.

Prepping for the 22nd annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com




The biggest dragon boat races of the year take place this weekend in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, but Randy Ng of the DCH Dragon Boat Club isn’t nervous.

Ng, 29, a self-employed Queens resident, is just excited to get a chance to perform in front of friends and family.

“It’s a happy time because you get to showcase all of the hard work you put in,” Ng said.

But that doesn’t mean the race is without its distinct challenges.

“I always tell everyone that anything can happen in New York [dragon boats] because it’s unlike any other race,” Ng said.

The New York races are different in that the course varies depending on a boat’s lane position. Most races provide a boat but allow the team to bring its own life vests and paddles. In New York, all equipment is provided by the festival.

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival on Meadow Lake is an annual tradition entering its 22nd year. On August 4 and August 5, over 170 teams will compete for $60,000 in prizes.

DCH, sponsored by the auto group of the same name, is one of the largest teams in the northeast.

Alex Chao, 48, founded the team in 1992 with a roommate who worked for the company but couldn’t find enough people to fill out the roster.

Chao, a dentist and Forest Hills resident, began the team with just 22 people, including two women, and watched it grow to more than 100 members.

He’s amazed at how far it’s grown in 20 years.

While most teams recruit the fastest and strongest paddlers, including Navy SEALS and Marines, DCH only brings in family and friends, explained Chao. This includes high school students from elite academic schools like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant, who are trained by the team and expected to lead them in competitions in the future.

Despite the amateur status, the team expects to make waves in all the races, including the U.S. Open (main event) as well as the mixed, women and junior divisions. The most important race of the day, said Ng, is the charity race where they’ll compete for the Charles B. Wang Community Center, with locations in Flushing and Chinatown.

The charity event strikes right at the heart of the dragon boat racing community whose focus is beyond merely winning and losing.

“We strive to apply what we do in racing to what we do in life,” Ng said. Their goal isn’t solely to win races but to nurture youth and to build friendships.

“Your teammates become your second family,” Ng said. “The bonds you make with them last a lifetime and no one can take that away from you.”

A dragon boat, made of sturdy teak wood, holds 22 people, including a coxswain and drummer, all paddling in sync towards the finish line.

“How many situations do you have where you can work with 20 other people?” asked Ng.


22nd Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

dragon boat race 1_1045w

In celebration of the “Year of the Water Dragon,” the organizing committee of the 22nd Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York (HKDBF-NY) announced that this year’s competition is to be held on Saturday, August 4 and Sunday, August 5. It will feature cash & prizes for competitors in this year’s US Dragon Boat Open Championship. Other festival events consist of several Special Cup races including The Hong Kong Cup and the Municipal Cup featuring various teams from our elected officials. This year’s Corporate Invitational looks to be a good one, with many Corporate Teams joining us to race for their company. The Festival will be held at Meadow Lake, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, rain or shine. Admission is free.

HKDBF-NY is an international, multicultural celebration and sporting event, the largest multicultural festival in New York and the largest festival of its kind in the U.S. HKDBF NY keeps up the age old tradition of Dragon Boat Racing in colorful, custom-made teak boats, which are virtual works of art gliding on water. Custom-made by a small coterie of craftsmen in Hong Kong, weighing one ton each, colorfully painted with a dragon head at the front and dragon tail at the rear, the boats are piloted by up to 20 crewmen, including 18 paddlers, a drummer and steersperson.

For 21 successful years, HKDBF-NY has attracted a diverse, multi-cultural audience of more than 50,000 attendees throughout North America. With more than 180 well-trained teams, involving more than 2,500 participants competing from across the U.S. and Canada, this year’s festival is expected to be notable in its scale and fierce competition.

With cash & prizes at stake for the US Dragon Boat Open Championships, the festival takes place over two days on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair, featuring events for the entire family. The opening day parade at noon on Saturday, August 4 will be followed by the New York City Championship Races. The U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championship will be held on Sunday, August 5th with the teams vigorously competing for their share of the cash & prizes.

Racing starts at 9 a.m. and events last throughout the day until approximately 5 p.m. each day, rain or shine. Other festival events consist of the media invitational, corporate youth, charity race, women’s invitational, and sponsors challenge, a photo contest as well as presentations on the Stage of traditional Chinese arts, martial arts demonstrations, the traditional dragon dance, musical and other diverse performances and demonstrations of folk arts and crafts. An ethnic food court and booths staffed by sponsors of the event, many of whom will be giving away promotional items, and many community-based organizations participating help make for a unique, action packed, multi-cultural, New York weekend.

The tradition of Dragon Boat racing is an annual Chinese rite commemorating the idealistic poet and reformer Qu Yuan who drowned himself in the third century B.C. to protest against his emperor’s policies. The locals raced in their boats in an attempt to rescue the poet. To prevent fish and water dragons from eating his body, the locals beat their drums and splashed their paddles. This was the beginning of Dragon Boat racing.

Admission to the HKDBF-NY is FREE; events take place Rain or Shine.

Directions to the Festival by car – take the Long Island Expressway to Van Wyck Expressway to exit 11 south, then stay on service road to the Park. Parking is severely limited. Please take the MTA or car pool. Directions to the festival by bus/subway –again this year we’ve worked with the MTA to insure easy and safe transportation to the festival site. Festival goers can use their MetroCard to take the No. 7 Train to the Citi Field stop and transfer from there to special MTA shuttle buses that will take them directly to the festival site, or they can walk from the Citi Field stop (about 15 minutes) or take the colorful park trolley to the festival site. Parking on-site is limited, you can park at CitiField and take the special MTA shuttle with your MetroCard or use correct change.