If you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary to do this summer, look no further than the Southern California Dragon Boat Festival to be held in Long Beach. This fascinating, colorful and action-packed two-day event promises to be brimming with cultural diversity, variety and excitement. Bring the whole family and start a Dragon Boat Festival tradition of your own.
The history of this fascinating annual event has roots extending back to China. It commemorates the life and death of the patriot and poet Qu Yuan (340-278 B. C. ) According to folklore, he was distraught over being exiled from his native state and committed suicide by casting himself into the Miluo River. In their efforts to save him and ward off evil spirits, the people of his homeland beat drums and splashed water with their paddles. Over time, this evolved into dragon boat races, which are generally held on the day of his death.
Someone attending a modern dragon boat festival is in for a colorful treat. Expect to see several decorated wooden boats, each containing at least twenty paddlers, a drummer, and a helmsman. It is the job of the drummer to set the cadence or rhythm of the strokes of the paddlers. The drummer will also communicate with the paddlers by means of hand signals, often exhorting everyone to perform at their peak. In addition, this person must be keenly aware of the boat’s position relative to its competitors, making decisions about when to hold back or surge forward to position the boat for victory. Paddlers face forward and paddle in a canoe style. In the rear of the boat, mostly to the side and off center, sits the sweep or helmsman. It is his job to steer the boat with his mounted oar. Usually, festival races are shorter than their counterparts held strictly for sport. In general, they are five hundred meters long.
In recent years, dragon boat racing has gained increased popularity, not only in China but throughout the world. The International Dragon Boat Federation has been established to oversee the sport. In addition, many municipalities around the world hold dragon boat festivals similar to the one in Long Beach. These include major events in Canada such as Vancouver, British Columbia, Toronto, and Ottawa. In the U. S. , you can find significant festivals in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Portland, Oregon. As an interesting side note, dragon boat racing has recently been adopted by several teams of breast cancer survivors throughout North America.
Come to the Southern California Dragon Boat Festival in Long Beach, and you will be treated to much more than the beauty and pageantry of the boats. This festival is a cooperative effort between the local dragon boating Chinese community and volunteers throughout the festival. The event is alive with cultural spectacles, including traditional Chinese music and dance, as well as delicious ethnic food. Whether you and your family prefer to view the races or the associated religious rituals associated with them or mainly enjoy the cultural diversity to be found at the venue, you are sure to be satisfied. Each year, the Southern California Dragon Boat Festival attracts a loyal group of return visitors. Why? Because once you have been a part of this ancient yet contemporary extravaganza, you will want to come back for more.