by Jian Ping

CHICAGOflyfishinggear, June 22 (Xinhua) -- With lion dancers and crowds cheering to the rhythm of drumbeats along the Chicago River, the first qualifying race of a dragon boat competition kicked off early Saturday, filling the air with chants and laughterflyfishinggear.

Thirty-seven teams from the greater Chicago area converged at the Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chicago's Chinatown for the 24th Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy, marking the event's largest turnout since its inception in 2000.

"It's fun and also supports the community," Diana Talph, 43, from the Bank of Montreal team, told Xinhua. A four-year veteran of the race, Talph appreciates how it brings together people from different parts of the community.

"Once in, many of us return to participate again," she said.

Saad Elkhelfi, 24, a fellow team member, echoed her sentiments, noting that this was his second year participating.

Peter de Jong, 56, of the Century 21 team, highlighted the communal pride associated with the event, as proceeds benefit local literacy programs.

"It's a chance to give back to the community," he said.

All profits from the race will be donated to several Chinese schools within the community.

flyfishinggear|Feature: Chicago's dragon boat race brings communities together

"The annual dragon boat race is one of my favorite events," said Jimmy Lee, president of the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, the event's organizer. "It celebrates our culture and brings our communities together."

The dragon boat race is a key tradition of the Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, which commemorates Chinese renowned patriotic poet Qu Yuan, who was also a minister of the State of Chu during the Warring States Period (475 B.C.-221 B.C.).

This year, the festival fell on June 10.

Each year, the dragon boat race in Chicago's Chinatown is attended by more than 10,000, Lee said. "People come to watch the race and go to Chinatown to enjoy the food with their families and friends."

Brendan Chandler, a 41-year-old resident of Naperville, a suburb west of Chicago, learned about the race early Saturday morning. He and his wife drove over to watch it with their two daughters, aged 11 and 7.

"We've heard about dragon boat races before but have never been to one," he said, seated on the riverbank lawn. The family planned to explore Chinatown's shops afterward.

"Chicago's Chinatown is an economic engine in our community, with small businesses taking up 99 percent of its entities," Lee said.

While attracting visitors to Chinatown, events like this, alongside the Chinese New Year Parade also expose younger generations of Chinese origin "to our traditional culture and heritage," he added.

Throughout the day, spectators were treated to performances including Sichuan-style face-changing, traditional Chinese music, and martial arts, in the lead-up to the final races.

Date: 2024-06-23