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‘One of the good guys’: PR guru David Archer, who helped expand Queens’ Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, dead at 75

Nov. 14, 2023 By Bill Parry

David L. Archer, a public relations and marketing expert who helped organize and promote the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in Flushing Meadows Corona Park for years and helped guide the explosive growth of the Queens World Film Festival for nearly a decade, died following a six-month battle with cancer while he was surrounded by family members at his upstate New York home on Nov. 10. He was 75.

Dragon Boat races are sporting events held around the world and in 1991, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office brought it to the Hudson River as a one-time event. It was so successful that Henry Wan brought it back and moved it to Flushing Meadows Corona Park the following year to be closer to one of the largest Asian immigration populations in the world: northeast Queens. In addition to the sporting event, Wan added an international cultural festival that became one of the largest of its kind in the United States drawing crowds of 60,000 to Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

“David Archer has been an important part of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York for over 20 years, as our PR and Marketing director, and we valued his professionalism and dedication to this very unique NYC community and sporting event in a multicultural celebration,” Wan said. “All of us from the festival will miss him dearly, may he rest in peace.”

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival draws crowds of nearly 60,000 to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. File photo by Dean Moses

Archer helped Wan expand the festival and often played the role of master of ceremonies from the festival stage. Archer knew that corporate sponsorships were the key to success in forging longtime alliances

“Sponsorships are critical because Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival-New York is a small nonprofit and the city’s Parks Department charges heavy fees for the use of Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” Archer told QNS in 2017.

Katha Cato, the executive director of the Queens World Film Festival, met Archer at a networking event in 2014.

“He came right up to me and said, ‘Kiddo I want to work with you. I want to help the festival,’ and I said, ‘well, we don’t have any budget and I’ve never worked with a PR person on this project,” Cato recalled to QNS. “David said that we would work it out. He never bugged me with invoices. He always said, ‘You know, just tell me what you can afford and we’ll do it that way and I’ll just write the invoice and you pay me when it works for your budget.”

Born in Presque Isle, Maine, in 1948, Archer was still a teenager when he launched his career as a DJ at a local radio station before leaving Maine to attend Emerson College in Boston.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Archer produced stage events and concerts at the Modern Theatre, an old cinema-vaudeville space in Boston that he renovated with his partner Randy Harrison.

In 1989, he moved to Woodstock, Vermont, where he married Diane Magnusson and became managing director of Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium, turning the run-down 2,600-seat venue that hosted performances by George Carlin, Joan Baez, Jethro Tull and Tito Puente, as well as professional wrestling, Golden Gloves boxing, circuses, Sesame Street Live and Nickelodeon.

Twenty-eight years ago, Archer and his family moved to Hopewell Junction in New York’s Hudson Valley, where he continued to work in brand management, public relations, marketing, and event organization as founder and CEO of DA Associates PR and began working with the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival and the Queens World Film Festival, which is currently gearing up for its 13th season in March.

“We did a fundraising screening at Kaufman Astoria Studios last Friday night and I just heard him in my head and in my heart all night long going, ‘Hey Cato where are you going?’ or, ‘Hey kiddo, looks good.’ He just was just one of the good guys,” Cato told QNS. “And you know he was an old-fashioned PR rep through and through and I loved working with him. He believed in his client and gave a lot. I just adored working with him, I really did.”

Archer is survived by his wife Diane, his son Matthew Behr and his granddaughter. A memorial service is planned for the first week in December. Rob MacKay, the director of Public Relations, Marketing and Tourism at the Queens Economic Development Corporation, said Archer made an indelible mark on the borough and he will be missed.

“We’ve lost a great one. David’s accomplishments were countless and praiseworthy, but he was also a fantastic human being,” Queens Tourism Council Director Rob MacKay said. “He was funny, extremely interesting, dedicated to doing the right thing and a great family guy. I am much richer for having known him and so is Queens. All the best to his family and let’s make the Dragon Boat Festival the best ever in his honor.”

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