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Annual Dragon Boat Festival kicks off in Central Park ahead of Queens extravaganza

Jul. 20, 2023 By Dean Moses

The serpent rises again.

Central Park played host to an awe-inspiring ceremony on Thursday that marked the launch of a Queens staple that has been running for more than three decades: The Dragon Boat Festival.

Dubbed the “Dragon Awakening Ceremony,” parkgoers stopped in their tracks by the Bethesda Fountain on July 20 as the festival was launched in grand fashion.

The Dragon Boat Festival is a two-day extravaganza that takes place annually in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, with this year’s event set to draw thousands on Aug. 12 and 13.

Martial artists kicked-off the dragon awakening in Central Park on Thursday. Photo by Dean Moses

The commemoration melds traditional Chinese culture with an event-filled day out that includes boat races, a variety of cuisine, games and more. A large stage also offers musical acts, dances and spoken word performances.

“It’s a very quintessential New York event,” race announcer Ian Brooks told QNS. “I think we get like 40,000 people there over the weekend because it’s a food festival too. There is nothing else quite like it.”

Two monks blessed the organizers and a race boat that was fitted with a dragon’s head. Photo by Dean Moses

Two monks blessed the organizers and a race boat that was fitted with a dragon’s head. Photo by Dean Moses

The festival’s return was celebrated with martial artists of all ages showcasing their skills with high-flying acrobatics before two monks blessed the organizers and a race boat that was fitted with a dragon’s head. Chanting, the holy men circled the raft and splashed it with water.

“We’re happy to be able to organize such an event. Besides the exciting racing we also have multi-ethnic food,” festival chairman Henry Wan pointed out. “Remember, the event is free, so come and see us.”

Organizers dotted the eyes of the dragon, symbolizing its awakening, before taking the boat onto the Central Park Lake, where they paddled on the moss-covered water and waved to onlookers.

Organizers dotted the Dragon’s eyes. Photo by Dean Moses

Organizers paddled in the Central Park Lake. Photo by Dean Moses

Organizers paddled in the Central Park Lake.Photo by Dean Moses

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