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Behind the Scenes: Awakening the Dragon Boat

On Thursday, organizers and affiliates of the 21st annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York gathered in Battery Park City's Wagner Park for a traditional dragon boat awakening ceremony. The event included a blessing of the boat and a martial arts performance.

Over 170 teams from across the U.S. and Canada will compete in the festival’s dragon boat races. Each of the one-ton teak vessels was custom made by a team of Hong Kong-based craftsmen and will be piloted by up to 20 crewmen.

The festival, which is free to attend, will also feature an international food court and cultural performances. Festivities run from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. on Aug. 13 and 14 at Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Click through the slideshow below for a closer look at the awakening ceremony and for more information on the background of the festival.

After its "awakening," this dragon boat will take to the water for the 21st annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York.
After its "awakening," this dragon boat will take to the water for the 21st annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York. ( Erica Getto )
Each dragon boat is piloted by up to 20 crewman, including a steerer and a drummer.
Each dragon boat is piloted by up to 20 crewman, including a steerer and a drummer. ( Erica Getto/WNYC )
A closer look at the boat's bow reveals a detailed dragon head.
A closer look at the boat's bow reveals a detailed dragon head. ( Erica Getto )
Traditional Chinese Shaolin martial artists performed at the dragon boat awakening ceremony.
Traditional Chinese Shaolin martial artists performed at the dragon boat awakening ceremony. ( Erica Getto )
In Hong Kong, the annual Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
In Hong Kong, the annual Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. ( Erica Getto )
The tradition of dragon boat racing stems from a legend of third-century B.C. poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in protest of his emperor's policies.
The tradition of dragon boat racing stems from a legend of third-century B.C. poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in protest of his emperor's policies. ( Erica Getto )
No active recreation?
No active recreation? ( Erica Getto )
During the festival, traditional Chinese dance and martial arts performances will follow the festival's dragon boat races.
During the festival, traditional Chinese dance and martial arts performances will follow the festival's dragon boat races. ( Erica Getto )
Another impressive shot of the Chinese Shaolin martial artists performing as part of the dragon boat awakening ceremony.
Another impressive shot of the Chinese Shaolin martial artists performing as part of the dragon boat awakening ceremony. ( Erica Getto )
More images of the striking martial arts performance.
More images of the striking martial arts performance. ( Erica Getto )
More images of the striking martial arts performance..
More images of the striking martial arts performance.. ( Erica Getto )
The final pose of the performance.
The final pose of the performance. ( Erica Getto )
A Buddhist monk from the World Chan Buddhist Association prepares for the traditional awakening blessing of the dragon boat.
A Buddhist monk from the World Chan Buddhist Association prepares for the traditional awakening blessing of the dragon boat. ( Erica Getto )
Following the blessing, festival chairman Henry Wan and event affiliates partook in dotting the eye of the dragon with red paint, which symbolizes the boat being brought to life.
Following the blessing, festival chairman Henry Wan and event affiliates partook in dotting the eye of the dragon with red paint, which symbolizes the boat being brought to life. ( Erica Getto )
The blessing of the dragon boat is thought to bring prosperity and good fortune to the boat and its surroundings.
The blessing of the dragon boat is thought to bring prosperity and good fortune to the boat and its surroundings. ( Erica Getto )
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