Dragons invaded Flushing Meadows Lake this weekend. But instead of fire and wings, these dragons had paddlers and beating war drums.
The 24th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival began on Saturday morning with thousands of people coming to the lake to watch 197 teams compete in boat races.
“There are people here today from all over the world coming to Queens for this wonderful event,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “When you go back home, wherever that may be, tell your friends and family to come back next year and spend a lot of money in Queens.”
The race is a Chinese tradition that goes back thousands of years and the Flushing Meadows Corona Park dragon boat race was just one of many races being held across the world.
In the crowd, Dennis Liu, 23, and his fellow paddlers watched the stage as Katz and other politicians talked about the race.
“I love this sport,” Liu said. “It’s all about camaraderie and the rush of the race.”
Liu, who is a member of the team MAD, has been practicing with his 22-member team for the whole summer. Many teams represent companies through corporate sponsorships or, in the case of Katz’s Thunder Cats, represent politicians. But Liu’s team is just a group of high school friends who enjoy the sport and come back every year.
“I think we have a really good chance of winning,” Liu said as he and his teammates began their workout stretch.
Twenty-five teams won first place, with cash prizes that ranged from $500 to $1,500.