Published in
Features

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival Kicks Off in Central Park

The Central Park Lake hosted a dragon boat on Thursday as part of the festivities leading up to the 22nd annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York.

The ceremony marked the start of the training period for teams competing in several dragon boat races on August 4 and 5 at Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. This year’s event is especially significant because 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon in Chinese Astrology.

The festival’s marketing director, David Archer, says the event has grown significantly since its inception.

“It started 22 years ago on Battery Park with six teams,” Archer said. “This year we have approximately 170 teams from all over the world comprising about 2,500 competitors. So the Dragon Boat Festival is both a sporting and cultural event.”

At the launch, a Buddhist priest blessed the boat by circling it with incense and using a flower to sprinkle it with water.

Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe was also on hand to partake in the ceremony. He helped “awaken the dragon” by dotting the eye of the dragon ornament on the boat’s exterior with red paint.

“If you can join a dragon boat racing team,” Benepe said to the crowd at the ceremony. “It’s really rigorous exercise, I’ve done it. It’s about as hard a thing as you can do but it’s a lot of fun.”

Teams can register for races, which include the Hong Kong Cup and the Municipal Cup, at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival website. Winners receive cash and prizes that include a round-trip ticket to Hong Kong. The festival also features food, arts and crafts, cultural programs and performances. Attendance is free.

Leaders from New York’s Asian community make their way around the lake in a dragon boat.
Leaders from New York’s Asian community make their way around the lake in a dragon boat. ( Jorteh Senah )
Dragon boat paddles and life vests.
Dragon boat paddles and life vests. ( Jorteh Senah )
A Dragon Boat ready to be manned by rowers.
A Dragon Boat ready to be manned by rowers. ( Jorteh Senah )
A Dragon Boat floats on the lake in Central Park.
A Dragon Boat floats on the lake in Central Park. ( Jorteh Senah )
A Buddhist monk lights incense while blessing a dragon boat.
A Buddhist monk lights incense while blessing a dragon boat. ( Jorteh Senah )
A Buddhist monk prepares to dot the eye of a dragon ornament with red paint.
A Buddhist monk prepares to dot the eye of a dragon ornament with red paint. ( Jorteh Senah )
A Buddhist monk dots the eye of a dragon ornament with red paint to “awaken the dragon.”
A Buddhist monk dots the eye of a dragon ornament with red paint to “awaken the dragon.” ( Jorteh Senah )
Dragon Boat Festival Chairman Henry Wan, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office Director Anita Chan, HSBC Senior VP Elizabeth Lee, Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe and the monk dot the eye.
Dragon Boat Festival Chairman Henry Wan, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office Director Anita Chan, HSBC Senior VP Elizabeth Lee, Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe and the monk dot the eye. ( Jorteh Senah )
A Shaolin martial artist wields a sword during his performance.
A Shaolin martial artist wields a sword during his performance. ( Jorteh Senah )
A Shaolin martial artist takes flight.
A Shaolin martial artist takes flight. ( Jorteh Senah )
Shaolin martial artists perform as part of the Hong Kong Dragon Boast Festival launch.
Shaolin martial artists perform as part of the Hong Kong Dragon Boast Festival launch. ( Jorteh Senah )
The Dragon Boat Festival runs through August 5.
The Dragon Boat Festival runs through August 5. ( Jorteh Senah )
of