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5 things to know before you head to Dallas's first AAPI Dragon Boat Festival at White Rock Lake


You've seen cars race, horses race and you might have even seen pigs race. But have you ever seen dragons race?

This Sunday you'll have your chance.

15 Dragon boat teams will race for the title of the Golden Dragon of Dallas along a 200-meter course at White Rock Lake on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, the City of Dallas, the National Association of Asian American Professionals and the Dallas Delite Dragon Boat Team joined forces to present the 1st Annual AAPI Heritage & Dragon Boat Festival.

Cristine Kao, of Dallas United Crew and Coach of the Dragon Boat Program says that although a number of rowing regattas have taken place at Dallas' White Rock Lake, this is the first time Dragon Boats have raced there.

Here are a few things you'll want to know before you head out to the races.

1. The sport is VERY old

The sport of Dragon boat racing dates back to southern central China more than 2500 years ago and is linked to the legend of Qu Yuan, a poet who was falsely accused of treason. Out of disappointment in the Chu monarch, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River. The common people rushed to the water and tried to recover his body, but they failed. In commemoration of Qu Yuan, the people held dragon boat races on the day of his death, a tradition that continues to this day.

2. Dragon boats are different than crew or rowing boats

You might think it's the mythical Asian-style dragon head on the bow and a dragon tail at the rear is what sets these boats apart, and while that's true, the biggest difference is the number of people on the boat and how the boat is propelled through the water.

"A dragon boat hosts 22 people" says Kao. "There are 20 paddlers, one person at the front using a drum to set the pace for the racers, and one person in the back steering the boat. In crew or rowing, you'll only have eight people in a boat. And in a crew boat, participants sit backwards while rowing, whereas in a dragon boat, you face forward and paddle like a canoe."

3. Employees from the Dallas Mavericks have a boat in the race

15 teams will be competing at this 1st annual Dragon Boat festival. Corporate teams from ABC fitness, Verizon and the Dallas Mavericks are in the line-up. And community teams from Houston and Austin and Dallas United Crew's Breast Cancer Survivor Team are also part of the roster.

4. The best place to watch the races is at the Bath House Cultural Center

The finish line is on the banks of White Rock Lake right in front of the Bath House.

Kao says you'll see a spectacular three boat finish every time the boats race.

"It's a beautiful backdrop with the City of Dallas and downtown in the background. If you're standing in front of the Bath House looking at the dragon boats on the water. It truly will be spectacular to see."

5. This festival includes more than just Dragon Boat Races. Enjoy a day full of fun

The family-friendly event celebrates the rich diversity of the AAPI Community in North Texas with cultural performances from local music and dance groups, hands-on workshops, a vendor market and a Tai Chi and Kung Fu demonstration. Inside the Bath House visitors can explore the Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans photography exhibition or catch a screening of the documentary Hear Me Roar. And of course no festival is complete without food trucks and vendors and this one is no different with food from all around Asia available for purchase.

There will also be an official proclamation from the office of the mayor and an Eye Dotting ceremony—a ritual in which a symbolic red dot is placed on the eye of dragon. The ceremony is said to empower the creature to bring about protection, good luck, health, and prosperity for those present. The eyes also reflect the spirit of the creature, so having its eyes dotted is the last step before it comes to life.

Visit Go See DFW to find more weekend events.

The Go See DFW calendar is a partnership between KERA and The Dallas Morning News.

Got a tip? Email Therese Powell at

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