Thousands Attend Hartford's Dragon Boat Race and Asian Festival

Fifty teams, each made up of 20+ members, raced on the Connecticut River on Saturday.

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A longtime tradition returned to Hartford since the pandemic.

The Capital City was home to music, food and dance to celebrate Asian culture. One of the main attractions was dragon boat racing.

The more than 20-year tradition in the city is one of the top 10 dragon boat festivals in the U.S.

Teams from Connecticut and across the country came with their paddles, ready to compete in a traditional Asian sport that dates back centuries. 

Fifty teams, each made up of 20+ members, raced on the Connecticut River on Saturday.

"The sport really represents the Chinese culture. I will say it's very beneficial for the teams and communities to gather to know our culture and continue our culture," said Shary Lou, of Boston.

New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were just some of the states represented in the race.

"It's much different than kayaking or canoeing or anything like that. It's all about precision and timing," said Bretty Houg, of Burlington, Vermont.

From Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River, this Vermont team brought a committed group of 39 paddlers.

"Because we're so close to the border, we went up to Montreal, Canada, for a race in July. We had our own festival in August a couple weeks ago. We're here today, and we'll be going to New Jersey in September," said Houg. 

The festival also honored breast cancer survivors. One says she discovered the sport while in recovery. 

"I went through breast treatment 11 years ago. As part of my rehab, the coach of my team was a nurse who was forming a dragon boat team," said Alex Herzan, of New York City.

Throughout the day, 50 teams, each made up of 22 to 23 people, lined up on the river and paddled in unison.

"I really enjoy padding as one. On the boat, together, that one stroke, one person. That feeling," said Lou.

About 1,000 participants were on the water, and the city expected a thousand more to come at the festival.

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