The hypnotic, rhythmic pounding of a drum will draw thousands of people down to the Hartford riverfront this weekend. More than 1,300 of these people will be dawning life vests, grabbing paddles and jumping in to brightly colored dragon boats.
Saturday marks the beginning of the ninth annual two-day Riverfront Dragon Boat & Asian Festival. Teams of at least eight women and 12 men will be racing these 40-foot boats up the Connecticut River. Up for grabs are prizes that total $20,000.
The races will feature amateur and professional teams along with a Breast Cancer Survivors division. Event promoters wanted to include as many people as possible so there were practices for teams with no experience.
A dragon boat is a type of canoe but it is made of three hollowed-out logs rather than one, like a canoe is. The three are logs are tied together, much like a raft. Of course for it to be a dragon boat it needs the sculpted head and tail at the front and back, giving it its distinct look.
Aside from the races, there will be Asian entertainment, dancing, demonstration and activities by local and national groups. There will also be a table tennis competition, Asian beer garden and authentic food.
This event has grown since it first started in 2000 when Riverfront Recapture sponsored the first festival as a one-day event that featured about 30 teams.
Most of last year’s winning teams will be returning to defend their titles on the river. There will even be a team traveling all the way from Washington, D.C.