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Andre Francis, 10, and Ian Fore, 11, took a break from roaming among the booths hocking newspaper subscriptions, fresh-squeezed lemonade and cellphone service at Saturday’s Dragon Boat Festival and tried their luck in a raffle for New York Mets tickets.
The two boys had never attended the annual event in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but decided to check out what was happening.
“It seemed interesting,” said Ian. “We saw the dragons.”
Dozens of dragons bobbed along Meadow Lake as thousands lined the shoreline and cheered on teams of racers during last weekend’s 23rd Hong Kong Boat Festival. The event honors Qu Yuan, a court minister and poet in first-century China, whose sacrifice is commemorated each year during the fifth lunar month with boat races.
Teams of rowers practice for months preparing for race day.
On Saturday, members of Manhattan’s United East Athletics Association stood in a circle around Coach Alan Lee and warmed up with shoulder, arm and leg stretches for the second heat races.
Lee, who has served as coach for eight years, originally joined this Chinatown-based community outreach sports organization’s team for another athletic outlet. He figured he would be one of the paddlers, but instead was drafted to be the steersman, who sits in the back of the boat and uses a large paddle to keep the team on track.
“I like being outdoors and in the water,” Lee said. “That is such a rarity in the city. And it’s just fun being part of it.”
Novice team member Marie Chan joined late in the season, but quickly got into the groove with the two-hour, biweekly practices both in swimming pools and on Meadow Lake.
“The hardest part at the beginning was syncing up with everybody else,” said Chan. “Every boat uses a different form and you have to try and perfect the form.”
UEAA opts for a rotating shoulder motion, said Chan, which forces rowers to get as much reach as they can.
But as of mid-day, Chan had not done much rowing. For the morning heat, she served as the team drummer, who sets the pace with a rhythmic pounding.
“Right when everything starts, all the focus is on you,” said Chan.
Back on the north side of the lake, spectators turned their focus to lunch. Dozens of visitors queued up for everything from individual pizzas at Eddies Pizza Cart to Nutella-stuffed crepes at Everything About Crepes to more traditional Chinese fare, including dumplings and rice balls at the T-Bar Stand.
Andre and Ian, however, had a hankering for seafood and even had their eyes on some of the creatures swimming in Meadow Lake.
“We saw some fish in there,” said Andre. “We’re planning to go back and try to catch some of them.”
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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