We all know that most dragons fly. Some, however, glide along the top of the water with great speed and accuracy, as if driven by an ancient necessity to appease the gods or confuse the fish or simply prove their superior strength. I refer, of course, to the tradition of dragon boat racing, a Chinese sport that has teams of synchronized rowers competing in long, flat-bottomed boats, urged on by the rhythm of an onboard drummer. Originating as a communal attempt to placate uncontrollable circumstances, such as the ever-changing weather’s effects on crops, dragon boat races have become a vehicle for cultural community-building.
And the dragons return to the Poughkeepsie waterfront this Saturday, July 25 for another go at the river! The second annual Dutchess Dragon Boat Race and Festival begins at 9 a.m. at the Hudson River Rowing Association Community Boathouse, where a ceremony to awaken the dragon will kick off the Asian Cultural Festival onshore and start the races in the water. Visitors can come as early as 8 a.m. to watch the pre-race activities and get a good look at the decorated long boats. While the races start, the daylong festival will begin with live music and dance performance, demonstrations, food vendors, art and artisans for attendees until 3 p.m.
Master Kwan brings the Lion Dance to the Festival for the second year, featuring dances from the young performers of the Waist Drum Dance Team from the Mid-Hudson HuaXia Chinese School, where local children learn of the rich Chinese traditions and culture. Arm-of-the-Sea Theater will present a live performance of Hook, Line and Sinker: Fishing the Hudson River at 11 a.m. Using the power of mask and puppetry, the program peers beneath the surface and explores the Hudson’s dual identity as prolific natural ecosystem and PCB-contaminated Superfund site. The visually charged show features live music and a bevy of low-tech special effects that reveal the river’s complex inner life. Live music performance will be provided by Gamelan Djam Gong, Bill Ylitalo’s avant-garde gamelan group that plays a unique blend of traditional and contemporary music inspired by the Indonesian isles.
Meanwhile, artists will be demonstrating traditional arts such as Yan Lyu’s multiple-color printmaking using carved woodblocks and printing on rice paper. Other traditional Chinese crafts will include paper-folding and calligraphy, and children will enjoy the dragon face-painting. Chinese food arts will be demonstrated for all to see how to make dumplings, spring rolls and other Chinese delicacies. Master Kwon will be performing Kung Fu, and there will be Chinese yo-yo demonstrations.
Rain or shine, the race and Asian cultural festival promise a day of fun and amazement. Sponsored by Dutchess Tourism, all proceeds from the race entrance fees will benefit Arts Mid-Hudson (www.artsmidhudson.org) and the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation (www.milesofhope.org).
Dutchess Dragon Boat Race/Asian Cultural Festival, Saturday, July 25, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., free, Hudson River Rowing Association Community Boathouse, 270-272 North Water Street, Poughkeepsie; www.dutchessdragonboat.org.