This past Saturday was the opening day for the 21st Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival held in Flushing Meadow Park Queens, NY and what a thrilling day it was. The race which is a multi-cultural two-day event took place on Meadows Lake.
Before the race I wandered over to the boat basin on the lake to photograph the teams as they entered their boats and sailed out to the starting line designated by six colored and numbered buoys far out in the lake. The teams were many and diverse and all the team mates had cool vibrant T-shirts with the team name and logo emblazoned on the back. The boats were more narrow than I had expected but despite the size held a team of 12 rowers, 1 drummer and 1 person who maneuvered the rudder. Each member wore a brightly colored safety jacket picked from a huge pile of jackets scatter on the pier. Also, on the pier was a bucket full of extra painted wooden paddles, and a dragon head waiting to be installed on the bow of the boat.
Following tradition the race officials dotted the eye of the dragon with red paint which awakened the dragon and signalled the race to begin. After donning a life jacket I got in a little motorized boat with another photographer from Beijing. We were taken out to the middle of the lake to capture the decorated dragon boats as they flew past us racing to the finish line. As you will see in the photos below the rowers seemed to be on top of each other as they furiously jammed their paddles into the lake again and again to the rhythm of the drummers perched on the bow of the boat.
The park was full of happy people with their children enjoying the carnival like atmosphere, picnicking on the grass by the lake, visiting the many food and sponsors tents (Verizon, HSBC, Pepsi, etc.) and buying Chinese arts and crafts. There were dancers, singers and performances in martial arts. The best part of the event for me aside from the excitement of the racers were the many and colorful kites. Hundreds of them filled the air diving and swirling through the sky like vibrant colored birds of prey. There was a man whom I dubbed the “Kite Guy” wandering through the crowds and selling the kites to children of all ages. You could not help but smile at the sight of the children squealing with delight as they watched their kite captured by the wind soar up into the sky.
Before I left I settled down on the grass under a tree and enjoyed an ice-cold glass of pink lemonade and huge chunks of red ripe water melon. Ah, a terrific summer’s day.
I’ve added a few photos from the event below but there are plenty more to see for your viewing pleasure on my website. Just click on this link: Dragon Boat Race