Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival Churns Atlanta’s Waters
The best hands-on cultural events aroundSeptember 23rd, 2016
There are numerous events one can visit in order to try new foods, see films, or listen to someone talk. The Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, however, allows visitors themselves to actually get in the boats and try their hand at rowing.
Saturday marked another successful Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival held on Lake Lanier. The festival, now in its 21st year, has grown enormously in popularity since its move from Stone Mountain to Lanier Olympic Park nearly 15 years ago.
According to event founder and chairman, Gene Hanratty, the event began with eight teams, 200 or so spectators and a handful of volunteers. This Saturday over 200 volunteers from the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club community were present, along with 80 teams of boaters from Georgia and beyond, and an estimated 8,000 fans. Olympic Park venue manager, Morgan House, called Saturday’s festival, “the best event since the ’96 Olympics.”
House also announced to the packed crowd on Saturday that the venue would serve as site of the 2018 Dragon Boat World Championships. This announcement falls in line with Hanratty’s observations that the annual dragon boat race on Lake Lanier isn’t just a Gainesville, Hall County or even Georgia event, rather the event represents a diverse network of Asian cultures displayed for North Georgians. At the festival on Saturday, spectators sampled a wide variety of Asian cuisines and were given the opportunity for a close look at different cultural traditions.
The event began at 7 a.m. with a traditional blessing of the different dragon boats by a Buddhist monk from the Cambodian Buddhist Society. During the opening ceremony, cultural acts and groups of dancers from China, India, Laos and other countries entertained spectators. Key event benefactors, Steve Barclay and Jerry Liu, also performed a traditional “eye-dotting ceremony”.
Barclay, director of the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in New York, was quick to explain on Saturday that the mixture of cultural opportunities at the event was not unintentional. He stated his office is always looking for ways to connect people with the cultures of Hong Kong and China. “We have to think of ways to connect with people in the general public,” said Barclay, explaining that often people are unaware of Hong Kong’s unique history, grouping it in with mainland China.
Barclay believes such events are perfect ways to showcase culture and engage in a fun team sport.