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Get ready for an exciting and free family-friendly event that returns to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York. On Saturday, August 4 to Sunday, August 5, 2012, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will occupy Meadows Lake once again.
Dragon boat paddlers practicing for the upcoming races.
On its 22nd year, the cultural event showcases a competition made up of many teams of paddlers, who, in modern times, are backed by corporate sponsors.
Always characterized by the lively beating of drums and shouts that guide paddlers as to how frequent, and fast or slow they should go—dragon boating has had a place in traditional Chinese rituals, ceremonies and festivals. It coincides with the 5th day of the 5th Chinese lunar month—which holds agricultural significance, such as the annual summer rice plantings.
Dragon boat racing is said to have started in the 3rd century B.C., when Qu Yuan, a poet, protested against unfair empirical policies by drowning himself in the Miluo River. Legend says that those who tried to rescue him paddled quickly, and made lots of noise using their drums and paddles to deter evil spirits or fish from consuming his body.
During the upcoming two-day event, observe how each of the 2,000-plus members of the more than 170 teams perform together—synchronized, as they vie for top honors at the present-day New York Dragon Boat Championships and the U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championship Races.
Another team of paddlers get acclimated to the waters.
Besides the races, there will be dancing dragons and lions, musical performances, traditional and folk dance numbers, and martial arts demonstrations to delight everyone. An arts and crafts tent will keep kids preoccupied with activities, such as rice doll making and calligraphy. Watch experts inflate and twist balloons into animals, flowers or whatever the kids like for instant keepsakes, and stop for a bit of face (or arm) painting. Then, head back to the races.
This popular, cost-free festival draws a huge crowd, so arrive early and claim your own patch of green. Since the event takes place rain or shine, it's wise to pack a beach or regular umbrella, picnic blanket, food, and of course, lots of drinks to stay hydrated. Food vendors will sell a variety of street food items, but since lines could be long during that weekend, it's best to bring some of your own refreshments. Depending on the weather, you may want to slather on some sunblock, and wear a hat and light-colored clothing to stay cool.
Bring your picnic essentials, such as an umbrella.