The Triangle area is known for many things, namely research and innovation. One thing the Triangle is not known for — dragon boat racing. However, that may be about to change.
The organization Asian Focus was formed to offer programs and events to help Asian Americans and immigrants better acclimate into American society.
In 2014, the organization held the first Dragon Boat Festival as an opportunity for the local Asian community to come together to celebrate their shared culture and history.
“The basic idea was to create interest in a sense of community,” said Marko Fong, a member of the board of directors for Asian Focus. “It is both about developing a sense of the Asian population in the Triangle and helping people who aren’t Asian get a sense of who we are.”
The Dragon Boat Festival is being held Sept. 23, at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. The festival is much more than just a few races, though. There are also various cultural performances that are open to the whole Triangle community.
“You won’t see this mix of music and dance anywhere else in the Triangle,” said Fong. “It is a very colorful event.”
This year, the festival will offer children’s games for the first time. This is part of an initiative by Asian Focus to make the event more family friendly. The idea is that families can now go and spend the whole day participating in the various activities and enjoying the performances.
In regard to the dragon boat races, 20 people are allowed on each team. Everyone is invited to enter, so many corporations have gotten involved and started their own teams.
Fong said there are often many teams of cancer survivors. This is due to a study by Dr. Don McKenzie that demonstrates the benefits that paddling has for breast cancer recovery.
As of 2017, there are over 200 teams of breast cancer survivors that participate in dragon boat races internationally.
North Carolina State University's Asian Student Association, Vietnamese Student Association and Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers each entered seven teams. They have also entered teams in previous years.
“It is a way of reaching out to the community as a student,” said Brian Nguyen, the vice president of the ASA at NC State. “We get to see other Asian Americans and hear their stories.”
The Dragon Boat Festival also offers a great opportunity for UNC students and community members to get involved and to learn more about those around them.
“It looks like lots of fun,” said Maura Holt-Ling, a first-year at UNC and also a lifelong Chapel Hill resident. “Chapel Hill values diversity, and it is good to promote this idea by having events.”
Although it may be too late to enter the race, students can still attend the event to watch the performances and races.
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