Whoa. Mind blown! There’s a festival in Houston where people race down the Buffalo Bayou in 40-foot long boats shaped like dragons? Oh yeah, it’s been going on for 17 years, it’s free and features live music, cultural performances, and delicious food. Can you call yourself a Houstonian if you’ve never heard of this?
This 2,500 year-old Chinese sport has become a global phenomenon with over 10,000 teams in more than 50 countries, and it’s been growing exponentially here since it’s debut in Houston. However, if you’re like we were and have been living under a rock, here’s the scoop:
According to legend, the roots of dragon boat racing originated 2,500 years ago in southern china when Qu Yuan, a poet and advisor to the Emperor, jumped into the Mei Lo River in despair over the government’s corruption. Locals, who revered Qu Yuan as a hero, rushed out in their boats to save him, pounding drums to scare away fish and water spirits from eating his body.
Fast-forward to now, Houston has made it into an event to share the tradition of Asian culture and dragon boat racing with the greater Houston community. In addition, the Dragon Boat Festival is meant to showcase our beautiful Buffalo Bayou and encourage Houstonians to get outdoors and use it to get healthy! Proceeds from the festival and regatta also go towards promotion of dragon boat racing in Texas and other charitable activities.
So how exactly does one dragon boat? Well, using a traditional Hong Kong style BuK Dragon Boat measuring 40 feet in length x 4 feet in width, teams of 20 paddlers, 1 drummer and 1 steersperson race down the Buffalo Bayou course ranging from 250m-1000m on the day of the regatta. Paddlers stroke in sync following the rhythm of the drum as the steersperson keeps them on course. On average, these boats weigh a whopping 500 pounds. Believe it or not, anyone can form a team and no experience is necessary-boats are provided and you only need to have a competitive spirit and ability to synchronize with your team.
This year, HTXoutdoors has partnered with our sister group, Bayou City Outdoors, to compete in this fun-filled race. Bayou City Outdoors won first place their first year, so HTXoutdoors is hoping to help them bring the trophy home again! Thanks to the help of the Dragon Boat Association, we will be participating in monthly practices leading up to the big day. They will be training us and making sure we are ready to bring our A-game! Without the dedication of the Texas Dragon Boat Association none of this would be possible. Find our more about them and their existing efforts to grow the sport below.
If you are interested in joining us, click here to get more information and grab a spot on the boat today! (Link)
Otherwise, come to the event to cheer us on and enjoy the day:
HOUSTON DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL
May 6, 2017
901 N. YORK ST. | HOUSTON, TX 77003
Times: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Area of Town: EaDo/East End
Texas Dragon Boat Association
The Texas Dragon Boat Association is a non-profit whose mission is to promote the tradition of dragon boating, increase awareness of Asian and Asian-American culture, and enhance cross-cultural understanding. For years, TDBA has fulfilled their mission by hosting dragon boating festivals during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, featuring cultural performances, food and artisans all over Texas.
The Texas Dragon Boat Association possesses a fleet of eight boats and plans are underway to build two boathouses (one in the East End on Buffalo Bayou and one in Sugar Land, Fort Bend County). Funds raised from their events help to develop these boathouses for public use. The Houston boathouse will be the first-ever boathouse along the downtown Bayou for non-motor boat craft, and will serve as a home base for dragon boating in the Southern United States. The boathouses will also facilitate a year-round youth education program, breast cancer survivor program and corporate/community teambuilding program.
Thanks to all the Texas Dragon Boat Association has done, Houston, Texas now has several year round teams, from leisure teams all the way to professional traveling teams.