Crowds Gather for Dragon Boat and Asian Festival in Hartford

The annual dragon boat races on the Connecticut River attracted quite a crowd to Hartford’s Mortensen Riverfront Plaza, Saturday. Eighteen hundred people paddled in the boats, while thousands more were on the shore cheering them on.

Each 500 meter race was over in a matter of minutes. Many companies sponsored teams for fun. Others were in it to win it. One paddler told us her favorite part of the race is getting into a rhythm with her teammates.

“When that happens, that click, that we’re all in unison and the boat is moving, my hairs go up, there’s just no way of describing that feeling, whether you win or lose if that boat and your team’s doing that it’s awesome,” said Marlene Sostre a member of the New York City Club, Women in Canoe.

The team had some competition from fellow New Yorkers, the Electric Dragons. They practice year-round and travel across the country for competitions. Their strategy to win was a simple one.

“We call it the kitchen sink, which is throw everything into it technique,” said Kevin Ng.

“It’s a very old sport. It’s the fastest growing on water sport in the country,” explained Mike Zaleski, President of Riverfront Recapture which has been organizing the festival since 2000.

“It’s a very social sport. It’s very friendly. Even though we have competition but it’s always everybody wishing each other the best and everybody’s cheering each other on and trying to better every year,” explained participant Jackson Koo.

In the “tent city”, each of the 80 plus teams had their own area where they could rest up and fuel up while they waited their turn. Each team raced three times throughout the day.

The festival also included live performances, music, and food stands.

“It’s wonderful…. to reflect the Asian tradition, community, cooperation,” said Tom Wang, Cheshire.

“By bringing the festival that’s part of it, it brings the community together and it helps expose the sport to the rest of the world,” added Koo.

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