OUR 8th ANNUAL SPECTACLE ON WATER: DRAGON BOATING
Led by the rhythmic beat of a drum, teams of 20 synchronized paddlers, one drummer and one steersperson race 250 meters across Bayou Texar in 42-foot canoes rigged with decorative Chinese dragon heads and tails. The sport brings social groups and businesses alike down to the water to bond and compete, building a stronger sense of “team” with every stroke. From vets to newbies, anyone can have a good time – they’ve made sure there’s plenty of time to kick back (or thrown down!) between races.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, dragon boating simply put, is a boat of 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steers person paddling to cross the finish faster than their competition. It’s a team sport in its purest form that encompasses the elements of power, speed, synchronization and endurance. With its beginnings in Southern China, dragon boating today is the fastest growing international team water sport. Each year, race festivals are held around the world in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States.
According to legend, Dragon Boat racing originated in China more than 2,300 years ago. Chinese history describes the fourth century B.C. as the Warring States period; a time of shifting alliances and treachery.
The patriot and poet Qu Yuan championed political reform and truth as essential to a healthy state. The King, who had fallen under the influence of corrupt ministers, banished his most loyal counselor, Qu Yuan, from the kingdom.
Left to wander the countryside, Qu Yuan composed some of China’s greatest poetry expressing his fervent love and loyalty for his country, and his deep concern for its future. Upon learning of his kingdom’s devastation at the hands of a rival kingdom, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mei Lo River in a ritual protest.
The people loved Qu Yuan. They raced out in their fishing boats to the middle of the river in a vain attempt to save him. They beat on drums and splashed their paddles in the water, trying to keep the fish from his body and ward off evil spirits. To honor his soul and ensure it didn’t go hungry, they scattered rice into the water.
Eventually, dragon boat races became the cultural tradition to mark the anniversary of Qu Yuan’s death – primarily a form of amusement and fun, while also highlighting the history of this colorful event. The Modern Era of Dragon Boat racing began in 1976 during the first Hong Kong International. The sport debuted in the U.S. in the early ‘80s. Now in more than 100 cities, every year people come together to pay tribute to this fallen statesman by paddling to the beat of their own drum.
The traditional dotting of the Dragon’s eye before dragon boat racing awakens the dragon and unleashes its fire, giving boats and their crews the strength of the dragon.
FESTIVAL VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRWn7MJmybQ