For the last 18 years, Atlanta has played host to the Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, a competition steeped in 2,300 years of colorful history and adrenaline-pumping action.
PHOTOGRAPH: KUN PHOTOGRAPHY
via ATLANTA DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL
WRITTEN BY SOUTHERN GUIDE TO LIFE
Gainesville, GA – On September 13th, Lake Lanier Olympic Venue in Gainesville, just north of Atlanta, will play host to the 18th annual Atlanta Hong King Dragon Boat Festival. Today, the slim 39-foot teak wood racing boats used in the competition are crafted in only a handful of boat-yards in Hong Kong. Each is distinguished with a ferocious and often colorful, dragon’s head at the prow of the boat and a tail at the stern. Traditionally, each boat required three special craftsman, with years of training, more than a month to build.
Hong Kong style dragon boat races date back more than 2,300 years. Twenty paddlers are seated side-by-side in ten rows. A steering guide uses an oar to steer the boat and a drummer, situated at the head of the boat provides plenty of drama. Together, each team is composed on twenty-two people in an adrenalin-pumping, uniquely cultural event that is fun for the whole family. All of this plays out against the background of the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue, which hosted some of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
The festival website tells the ancient Chinese legend where the Dragon Boat races find their origins. “As the story goes, there was a well-loved statesman and poet by the name of Qu Yuan who lived in the Kingdom of Chu during the 4th century B.C. Although this popular figure was a favorite of the people, he found himself banished from the court at the advice of corrupt officials,” says the website. “Unhappy and in deep despair, Qu Yuan roamed the countryside writing poetry about his love of the country and its people. Unable to bear his sorrow any longer, or perhaps as a final protest against corruption and a plea to the Emperor, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Mi Lo River. Local fishermen raced out in their boats in an attempt to save him but arrived too late. In order to lure fish away from the body, they beat the water with their paddles and tossed rice dumplings into the river. The Chinese people have never forgotten Qu Yuan’s desperate, heroic feat. Thus was born a tradition that continues to this day, dragon boat races are a re-enactment of the failed attempt to save Qu Yuan.”
The event, hosted by the Hong Kong Information Center in Atlanta, has grown to more than fifty teams with over 5,000 spectators. Attendees can also experience a wide variety of Chinese artisans and performers.
Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival:
Date and Hours: September 13, 2014 | 7am to 5pm
Location: Lake Lanier Olympic Venue | 3015 Clarks Bridge Road Gainesville, GA 30506