Decorated dragon boats have been used in special ceremonies in China for over 2,500 years. The sport of international dragon-boat racing began in Hong Kong around 1976. Now, more than a hundred cities in the US host dragon boat races, including our own Poughkeepsie: a city proud of its diverse ethnic population. The fourth annual Dragon Boat Race and Festival are set for Saturday, July 22 along the shores of the Hudson River.
Since its inception in the Hudson Valley, the event has been held to generate support for local non-profit organizations. In 2017, Habitat for Humanity of Dutchess County will host the event, and proceeds will go to its efforts to build strength, stability and self-reliance through homeownership.
Come down to the Hudson this Saturday and see 24 teams of rowers in sprint races. Dragon boats are 40-foot-long canoes made of fiberglass, decorated with a carved painted dragon head on the front, a wooden tail on the back and dragon scales down the hull. Holding up to 20 paddlers, plus a drummer to set the rhythm and a steerer, the boats create quite a spectacle as they glide on top of the waters.
On the race day, teams and team captains will gather at 8:30 a.m. for a last-minute meeting. Then an opening ceremony takes place at 9. The first race begins at 9:30, with the Grand Final taking place at 3 p.m., followed by an Awards Ceremony.
Meanwhile, the grounds of the Hudson River Rowing Association will turn festive with performances, food and craft vendors, community nonprofit tents and a raucous Dragon Land area for kids to cut loose on. Crafts, a bouncy house, puppetry and storytelling, dragon face- and arm-painting, calligraphy and other hands-on demonstrations and Chinese brush painting: all free for the whole family to enjoy.
With several teams returning from past years, some from out of the area, the competition will be tough. One team, the NYPD Familia, is competing to honor the recently fallen officer Miosotis Familia.
Admission to the Riverside Festival is free and open to the general public. Check the website below for the lineup and schedule of Festival events. Inclement weather conditions may force the event to be canceled, in which case it will not be rescheduled.