LET IT RIDE
The 2012 Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival
A publication by Patrick McPeak and Courtney Marabella • 2012 • All Rights Reserved
Old World Warriors Philadelphia’s tradition of bringing an age old festival to the banks of the Schuykill.
Photographs and story by Patrick McPeak and Courtney Marabella
The banks of the Schuykill River, in the heart of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park were crammed full of eager competitors in the annual International Dragon Boat Festival. Quite similar to any other festival held by the city, the Dragon Boat Festival brings teams from all over the world to the city of Philadelphia to celebrate the history of the sport. Originating in China, the sport has a lot of folklore attached to it. Dating over 2 millienia ago, a 4th century statesman, Qu Yuan, was exiled from the ancient Chinese state of Chu. After throwing himself into the raging Milou River. A local team of fisherman spotted the distressed Yuan and began a rescue effort. Wildly beating their drums and splashing their oars to
keep the dragon fish from eating Yuan, the brave This year was no different for the city of fishermen were able to save the statesman. Every Philadelphia. Bringing a multitude of teams from year, the event is reenacted down the Schuykill all across the country, teams were definitely in River and at many other festivals worldwide. the spirit bright and early on a splendid October saturday morning.. With many teams having a few races of expereience, a lot of them brought a fun and relaxed atmosphere to the event. Dressing as pirates and samurai, grilling up tons of food and playing music all the way up and down Kelly Drive, the morning was definitely started at a great pace for a fun day. Starting at 8 AM sharp, the first teams of racers took to the water setting the pace for the rest of the day. The Drexel University “Moto Dragons” were among the first teams of boats to kick the festival off. Captained by the 6 year veteran,
Theresa Connors and supported by a good squad of both students and alumni, the dragons were sure they were going to set competitive times with their great roster. Although their first heat did not go as well as expected, the Moto Dragons took a respectable third place in front of the Ambler Ramblers, a local charity team. Connors was happy with their overall effort in the first heat saying that they had a tough time getting started but finished very strong. George Smith, one of the older competitors at a spry 55, was also impressed at the pace of the Dragons. “A lot of us haven’t raced in almost a year but we were able to stay in sync which actually surprised me.” Smith said after a comment was made about their rowing cadence. Smith has been rowing for the Moto Dragons for nine years and couldn’t be happier with the influx of younger competitors being attracted to the team with a strong campus
presence. “It’s kind of crazy to see old guys like me in boats with these college athletes but it has easily made our boat a little faster. We almost have an edge now.” Many of the teams competing were not just competing for fun but competing for charity. With October being National Breast Cancer awareness month, many teams were out supporting various cancer research organizations. GoPinkDC was
“It’s kind of crazy to see old guys like me in boats with these college athletes” -George Smith
just that. A team of women all concerned about breast cancer research but having a great time while promoting awareness. A lot of other teams had a lighter purpose but still have fun no matter what cause they are supporting. The Winona Winers, a team of home winemakers, were also there pushing themselves down the river. With no member of the team under the age of 30, it is safe to say that dragon boating is an all-ages kind of sport. Even though the Winers were not able to take a cherished spot in the finals on saturday afternoon, they were still very excited to be there and compete in their first boat racing event. The Dragon Boat racing festival may not be the most recognized event on the Schuykill due to a lot of major Regattas being held in Philadelphia, but there is a very upbeat, fun atmosphere that brings life to the river as the foliage starts its winter slumber.
Pubished by Electric Dreams inc. Philadelphia. pa 2012