Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival returns to Queens

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The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival has returned in full force to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the Year of the Tiger.

The 30th year of the festival features hundreds of participants from across North America.

Members of the Paddle for the Cure Dragon Boat team, among 170 teams, raise funds for cancer research.


What do you want to know

  • Dragon boat racing has existed in Chinese culture for over 2,000 years
  • The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival took a two-year hiatus during the pandemic
  • More than 1,000 people and 170 teams from across the country are participating in this year’s contest

“We come back here stronger and we have to prove that we paddle and then sail hard,” said Leah Salmorin of Queens.

She has been cancer-free for 13 years and competes in the dragon boat race alongside other survivors and Elmhurst staff.

Salmorin was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and received chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

“It really is a real team effort,” said Jay Hwang, another paddler and director of nutrition services at Elmhurst. “Through the practice, we became good friends together. So we like to say that the hospital is a community and our family and we can provide the best service to our whole community.

Organizers say they’re thrilled to be back at Meadow Lake after a two-year hiatus.

“We are all very happy to be back and we all want to get back to normal,” festival chairman Henry Wan said. “We hope this event and festival can somehow help the city get back to normal.”

Each boat is custom made in Hong Kong, weighing one ton and carefully painted with a dragon head on the front and a tail on the back. The boats are piloted by up to 20 crew members, including 18 paddlers.

Dragon boat racing is a long-standing tradition dating back 2,000 years. While the annual festival is a celebration of Chinese culture, organizers say people from all walks of life are welcome and encouraged to attend.

“We also want to promote multiculturalism and if you look around, lots of people from different backgrounds, different races, different genders and that’s what we’re trying to achieve,” Wan said. “Bringing people together and making the city better.”

For Salmorin and his team, this sense of community inspires them to paddle forward no matter what obstacles stand in their way.

“Having cancer is not the end of the world! They could be an athlete and they could live their life,” she said.

The festival is a two-day event culminating on Sunday evening with the US Dragon Boat Open Championship race.

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