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This summer, Massachusetts celebrates its robust Asian heritage with a series of dragon boat races taking place across the Commonwealth.
Boston, Springfield, Lowell and Worcester, are the four main cities holding these exciting events. Tourists and residents alike are welcome to cheer on the teams and enjoy the cultural performances that are part of the festivities.
Dragon boat races have been observed annually for over 2,000 years in China. Each boat holds around 22 paddlers, 1 steerer, and 1 drummer who keeps a rhythmic drum beat to lead the paddlers throughout the race.
Known as Duanwu, the races are traditionally celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon on the lunar calendar to commemorate the life and death of Qu Yuan (340-278 BCE). On that day, people eat Zongzi, a traditional Chinese rice dish, and hang Calamus outside their houses. More importantly, the festival brings people all over the world together to join or watch the dragon boat racing.
Sunday, June 9
The 40th annual Boston Dragon Race is the oldest dragon race event in North America. The races run from 8 a.m. to noon and are free to the public. Contestants begin near the Western Avenue Bridge and end near the Weeks Footbridge. Following the races, enjoy an afternoon of cultural programs and a large festival, including the traditional Eye-Dotting Ceremony, Dragon Dance Parade, and Japanese Taiko Drumming. All events are free and family friendly. The Award Ceremony for winning teams takes place at the end of the festival at 5 p.m.
Location: John W. Weeks Footbridge on the Charles River between JFK Avenue and Western Avenue, Boston
Saturday, June 22
The 7th annual Springfield Dragon Boat Festival runs from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. Their dragon boat challenge begins at 9 a.m., located on the Connecticut River at North Riverfront Park. There will be three main teams attending the race – Challenge teams, Eastern Regional Dragon Boat Association, and club teams from Breast Cancer Survivor as well as All Cancer Survivor. During the day, BCS and ACS teams will take part in the Annual Rose Ceremony to commemorate those beloved ones who are suffering cancer. Following the races, check out their fabulous food stations and have fun with all the Asian-themed entertainment.
Location: North Riverfront Park, Springfield
Saturday, August 17
The Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival, Inc. is an exciting festival that celebrates the cultural heritages of the Southeast Asian Americans of greater Lowell, especially its Khmer, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian communities. The festival features boat races, food, crafts, cultural performances and blessings. First launched in 1997, the Southeast Asian Water Festival is considered one of the highlight’s of the Merrimack Valley’s summer season.
Location: Merrimack River from the Lowell Boat Club to the Rourke Bridge
Saturday, September 21
The 3rd annual Worcester Dragon Boat Race and Festival starts at 8 a.m., which there will be teams in three divisions on a 200-meter course on Lake Quinsigamond. The post-race festival is family friendly, including cultural performances, fun activities for kids, music, etc. and is held at DCR Regatta Point Park until 3 p.m. It will be a great opportunity to gather families, friends, and community groups together to celebrate this entertaining festival. Their portion of proceeds will be used to benefit the United Way of Central Mass.
Location: DCR Regatta Point and Lake Quinsigamond at 10 North Lake Ave., Worcester