Updated 08/05/2012 01:59 PM
Dragon Boat Festival Lets Hong Kong Culture Sail Through Queens
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More than 2,500 people raced painted boats across Meadow Lake Sunday as the 22nd annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival wrapped up in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens.
More than 180 teams participated in the event. Each painted boat, built of teak wood or fiberglass, can weigh up to a ton.
The boats were piloted by crews of up to 20 people, including a drummer to help set the pace.
"The thing that is really challenging about it is being synchronization and your timing, because timing is so critical that everyone puts their paddles in at the same time. And when I first started practicing I was always off by a second," said Janet Squitieri of the HSBC Bank Dragon Boat team.
Onlookers said this event was an alternative to the Olympics and much more economical.
"We couldn't get a ticket to London but we got a ticket to Flushing," said a local.
There were also performances, music and food of many cultures.
"This is the most culturally diverse neighborhood in America and this is a great example of that. I feel like it's a pretty well-kept secret," said an onlooker. "So I'm glad that we have these type of events."
"There are teams here from Asian market, from India, from other parts of the world and it is just a great exchange of cultural understanding knowledge and it is a lot of fun," said Marie Pedraza of the HSBC Bank Dragon Boat team.
Frankie Sze brought his 11-month-old son Spencer and his four-year-old daughter Stephanie to the festival to teach them about their heritage.
"We grew up in Hong Kong and there isn't a lot of Chinese culture and the original stuff here. So this is one of the traditions that we have in Hong Kong. We want to expose them a little bit more and introduce all this to them," Sze said.
Organizers said the festival has drastically changed since it started 22 years ago.
"We started with only 10 teams and we have grown to over 180 teams," said festival chairman Henry Wan.
This year's festival celebrated the year of the water dragon, which occurs once every 60 years.
The event was sponsored in part by Time Warner Cable, the parent company of NY1 News. TWC also had job recruiters on site looking for prospective employees fluent in Cantonese or Mandarin.