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May. 21, 2018
2:55 pm


22nd annual Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival to be held Sept. 9

By Jane Harrison
The 22nd annual Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival Sept. 9 brings exotic flavors and customs to Lake Lanier Olympic Park, plus a growing  contingent of local boaters. About 12 teams from schools and businesses near the festival’s home waters plan to pile into the dragon-headed boats to race against Atlanta-area corporations and schools.
“We are getting more and more teams from the Gainesville area,” said festival director Gene Hanratty, senior consultant to the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in New York. 20-person crews from Lakeview Academy, Left Nut Brewery, Wrigley, ZF Industries, Cargill, Jackson EMC, and two teams each from the University of North Georgia and Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club will engage in friendly competition with Delta, UPS, Home Depot, AT&T, Georgia Tech and other Atlanta giants. In the past, only a handful of locals paddled against crowds from the big city.
Hanratty expects registration to cap at 80 teams. To accommodate the long-boat invasion, the director acquisitioned two additional boats, adding to the eight provided by the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club. “Adding these two extra boats will also allow five boats to race per 200 meter heat instead of four,” said LCKC President Tracy Barth, event coordinator. More boats per heat will shorten what’s traditionally a hot afternoon for recreational teams, allowing more time for ramped up competition later in the day. “The most exciting part – we will have all ten boats racing in the grand finale. This is something amazing to see,” Barth said.
Another change this year is the reconfiguration of the vendors and food court, which is a huge draw for multi-cultural souvenirs and edibles. “We will be moving all of the vendors outside of the entrance gate into an area that we are calling our ‘Vendor Village.’ This will ease some of the congestion in the plaza area and allow attendees the ability to move about more freely,” Barth said. Team tents will still line the plaza.
Also debuting this year: beer and possibly wine. Gainesville’s hometown brewery, Left Nut, will not only put a team in a boat, it will also pour pale ales, stouts and pilsners in the Vendor Village. The homemade brew will likely be in competition with the drink of the day: fresh squeezed sugar cane juice. The super sweet beverage plus Asian and southern delectables of all kinds give attendees a taste of foreign and familiar fare. Barth said organizers have not yet finalized plans to serve wine this year. 
The main action on the lake – with drums beating and paddles furiously churning the water – is just part of the fun. The traditional opening ceremony, which takes midway through the competition at 12:30 p.m., offers a crowd-pleasing dragon dance with multiple acrobats underneath the belly of dragon costume. The writhing, cavorting dragon gets his eye painted by a local or festival celebrity, signaling the start of a near-hour celebration with Asian dancers, musicians, and martial arts experts. Hanratty said this year’s rendition will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the transfer of  sovereignty over Hong Kong from Great Britain to China. Joanne Chu, Director of the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in New York is expected to attend.
LCKC expects 200 volunteers, including 175 past and current club members, to work the club’s largest annual fundraiser. “This is an event that everyone looks forward to, and each year we have a dedicated pool of volunteers who serve in positions from assembling volunteer lunches, helping teams unload equipment, parking, providing safety on the water, working the finish line, to name just a few,” Barth said.
Barth anticipates it will stir enthusiasm for next September’s ICF World  Championship Dragon Boat races at LLOP. “ Hosting an event of that magnitude is no small feat; there will be more teams in attendance from countries all over the world and takes a lot of preparation,” she said.
“That event is strictly competitive,” Hanratty said. “Ours is by far recreational, more for fun.” Medals and bragging rights are part of it.

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Atlanta Festival Schedule

Saturday, Sept. 9, Lake Lanier Olympic Venue
  • 5:30 a.m. Parking 0pens
  • 6 a.m. Venue opens
  • 6:30 a.m. Off-site parking & shuttles
  • 7 a.m. Buddhist Monks bless dragon boats
  • 7: 15 a.m. National Anthem
  • 7:25 a.m. Dragon boat races begin
  • 12:30 p.m. Opening ceremony
  • 3:40 p.m. Awards ceremony
  • 4:15 p.m. 2000 meter races
  • 4:45 p.m. 2000 meter award ceremony 

Boat ramp at Lake Lanier Olympic Park/Clarks Bridge Park will be closed.

Posted online 8/29/17
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