Queens’ ethnic roots flourish at festivals

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Photo gallery

Navin Dass portrays Lord Krishna during the Phagwah parade, held to mark the Hindu holiday celebrating the start of spring. Photos by Christina Santucci
Robbie Nova (r.) takes the stage at the Jamaica Arts & Music Summer Festival. Photo by Nat Valentine
Participants row in unison while competing in the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo by Christina Santucci
Sean Butler and Agata Sawricki of Manetta's Restaurant in LIC offer vistors a sample of their menu at the Taste of LIC in Gantry Park. Photo by Ken Maldonado
Youngsters (l.-r.) Priscilla Park, Valerie Ham and Harin Oh ride aboard H-Mart's float in the Lunar New Year parade in Flushing. Photo by Christina Santucci
Teenagers throw powder on one another inside the Phil Rizzuo Park, where Holi celebrants dose one another with color at the end of the Phagwah parade evey year. Photo by Christina Santucci
Juan Villar, the general manager at Gabbana in Corona, dishes up a traditional Peruvian ceviche, which is cooked and topped with roasted corn, at a past Queens Taste of the World. Photo by Christina Santucci
Six-year-old Haitian prodigy Malachi shows off his skills on the drums during the Jamaica Arts & Music Summer Festival. Photo by Nat Valentine

Queens has a reputation for cultural diversity to uphold.

The county with the most varied class of citizenry in the country – and perhaps in the world – keeps that reputation alive by rolling out festival after festival each year with cultural diversity as the centerpiece.

Gatherings with backdrops in the arts, sports, religion and even food fill the calendar. And from Whitestone down to Jamaica and from Flushing across to Long Island City, revelers from all walks of life have a lot to look forward to each and every year Queens.

Among the festivals, fairs and events coming to Queens this year, some are all about the arts, including the LIC Arts Open and the Forest Hills Festival of the Arts; some are more ethnically and religiously centered, including Indian holidays Holi and Diwali; while some come from the sports arena, including tennis’ US Open, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, which takes place this year at Citi Field, and horse racing’s jewel, the Belmont Stakes.

Also on the sports front, dragon boats are getting set to roar ashore in Queens. Amid the blazing heat of summer in the city, the 23rd annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival launches this year Aug. 10 and Aug. 11 on Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, with more than 180 teams vying for cash, prizes and the honor of claiming this year’s U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championship.

The races keep up the age-old tradition of racing in colorful, custom-made teak boats, which glide across the water led by the snarling head of a dragon. The boats, piloted by up to 20 crewman with 18 paddlers, a drummer and a steers person, weigh 1 ton each — making pulling the boats across Meadow Lake quite the labor-intensive task.

Finding something to eat during the festival is far less labor intensive. While the paddlers work on the water, festival-goers are free to snack on their favorite cultural cuisine – everything from arepas and paella to fried chicken and pork buns, plus some lemonade and watermelon to take the edge off.

For more than 20 successful years, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York has attracted a diverse, multi-cultural audience of more than 60,000 attendees throughout North America. With more than 170 well-trained teams, involving more than 2,500 participants competing from across the United States and Canada, each festival is expected to be notable in its scale and fierce competition.

Another August attraction in Queens comes from the raucous streets of Jamaica with the music, dance, food and fashion of the annual Jamaica Arts and Music Summer Festival. Each year, thousands of revelers brave the heat and soak up the fun as Jamaica’s diversity spills onto the street in what amounts to a super-charged flea market at Jamaica JAMS.

Though no definitive date in August has been set, the open-air street festival stretches along Jamaica Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 169th Street and features music, dance and a vast array of merchants selling everything from jewelry to deeply discounted CDs.

Both Jamaica JAMS and Dragon Boats are blazing summer versions of another festival that recently came and went in Flushing. Huge crowds are the norm at the annual Chinese Lunar New Year parade and festival, an eagerly awaited event in the Asian community. Lunar New Year is the most anticipated holiday in many East Asian countries and is synonymous with travel, family, good food and new beginnings. Many people in China, Taiwan and Korea celebrate for most of the 15-day festival, while their counterparts in Queens typically have to cram all their fun into one weekend. More than 100,000 people flock downtown to watch the procession, according to the festival committee.

For festival-goers who believe that cultural diversity is best expressed through food, Queens has much to offer to hungry mouths from all corners of the globe.

The annual Taste of LIC is just one of these extreme foodie events to take hold in the borough. This year Long Island City’s premier gastronomical event, presented by The Chocolate Factory Theater, takes place Tuesday, June 4, at Gantry Plaza State Park. The event brings together the neighborhood’s restaurants and budding food culture and presents it to hundreds of honored, and hungry, guests.

Another hot event being served borough fanatics is the 11th annual Queens Taste, taking place at the Caesars Club at Citi Field on Tuesday, May 14. Hosted by the Queens Economic Development Corporation, the event features enticing entrees and refreshing beverages served by close to 50 vendors.

Whether it’s on a boat, a canvas, a sporting field or a plate, the culture that permeates Queens has plenty of outlets every year – and residents will likely never be short on rich activates to fill the calendar.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 12:23 am, March 22, 2013
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Reader feedback

eric harringer from lincoln park gold coast says:
the festival seems great seemingly so the beauty of your American people is nothing to get along for the procrastinators regardlessly to value of cost for got the festival is supplied foe the individuals who see it as the way to the finish line , with hope
March 5, 2014, 3:33 pm
eric harringer from lincoln park gold coast says:
regard to the couples at luni bends made the boss a lunatic bye 30 on up I do you the luni is all or nothing pimp raiders
March 5, 2014, 3:34 pm

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