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Kansas City celebrates Chinese Dragon Boat Festival

06-21-2012 17:26 BJT

by Katherine Harbin

KANSAS CITY, United States, June 9 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of people lined the sides of Kansas City's Brush Creek Saturday morning to cheer on those taking part in the city's eighth annual Dragon Boat Races.

Organized by the Society of Friendship with China and the Kansas City Sister Cities Committee, the Kansas City International Dragon Boat Festival is designed to give local Americans a taste of the Chinese cultural holiday, and increase multicultural understanding between the two countries.

In the main event, teams from seven local universities and two community organizations each manned a colorful dragon boat to face off in a series of races down Brush Creek, a small river dividing the city's Country Club Plaza.

Also making a special appearance at the festival was a dragon boat delegation from the Chinese city of Xi'an, the sister city of Kansas City.

At the boat dock, Director of Kansas City Parks and Recreation and race competitor Mark McHenry told Xinhua he looked forward to the Dragon Boat Festival every year -- not only as a fun opportunity to practice teamwork with his colleagues, but also as an opportunity to learn more about his hometown's sister city, and the different cultural traditions they have there.

"We have a sister city in China and this is part of their culture, so this way we're able to learn more about the history and the cultural connection between us and Xi'an, and dragon boats are part of that," McHenry said.

At the Kansas City race, teams boarded the dragon boats - each about 10 meters long and capable of holding around 10 people - and waited anxiously for the sound of the horn that would signal the beginning of the race.

As a tradition, at the head of each dragon boat was a team drummer to keep pace and motivate the rowers to victory, while someone in rear steered and tried to keep the boat steady.

However, the navigator was not always successful, as some dragon boats ran into walls or other difficulties that caused dragonboaters to tumble into the water below.

Despite the obstacles, all boats still managed to cross the finish line, and as the teams raced toward the Broadway Bridge, the air was filled with the steady pounding of drums, rapid splashing of oars, and excited cheers from fans on the riverside.

For many Kansas citizens, it was their first time hearing about the Dragon Boat Festival.

"I didn't really know anything about dragon boat racing or the festival before," admitted Ryan Eckert, a student from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

"But being here, it's kind of bringing back a little part of China back to Kansas City, and it's nice - a great cultural thing as well," Eckert told Xinhua.

The Kansas City race is just one of the many outlets worldwide for celebrating the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

With a history of more than 2,000 years, the Dragon Boat Festival was originally designed to honor an ancient poet called Qu Yuan.

According to Chinese history, Qu drowned himself in the Milo River after the King of Chu rejected Qu's advice for how to best advance the country. After learning of Qu's sacrifice, people boarded boats and scoured the river looking for his body, and later threw rice into the water as a tribute to the great poet.

Now, hundreds of years later, the Chinese people continue this tradition by eating rice dumplings in Qu's memory, decorating boats with dragon details, and racing along the water.

Meanwhile, at the Country Club Plaza's main stage, students from Lily Taylor Dance School and the Silk Road Dance Academy delighted audiences with performances of traditional Chinese dances.

Girls as young as four years old took to the stage in traditional Chinese costume and performed folk numbers such as the Fan Dance, moving in rhythm to the traditional Chinese music and waving to parents nearby.

Also taking turns on stage were performers showcasing Chinese lion dances, guqin zither musicians, and Chinese karaoke.

As festivalgoers wandered the attractions and sampled the traditional sticky rice dumplings sold at stands, they learned more about Chinese culture while enjoying the 80-degree weather and cloudless sky.

According to Kansas City International Dragon Boat Festival organizers, the event has grown bigger each year, and plans to expand even more in the future.

The festival was first hosted in Kansas City in 2005.


Editor:Zhang Dan |Source: Xinhua

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