Dragon Boat Festival 2015, California

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the Tuen Ng or Duanwu (端午节 – duanwujie)Festival, is a traditional and statutory holiday originating in southern China. The festival commemorates the death of poet and Minister Qu Yuan during the Zhou Dynasty, and a large part of that celebration includes racing dragon boats. Dragon boat racing has emerged in modern times as an international sport and this festival is celebrated outside China as well, including in the US.

boat1The festival held in San Francisco, California is currently the largest one held in the US, it was also the first state in the western hemisphere to host the Duanwu in 1983. The Duanwu celebration in California is currently organized by the California Dragon Boat Association (CDBA), a volunteer nonprofit organization. It occurs on the 5th day of the month of the traditional lunar calendar annually. Since the Chinese calendar is lunisolar the date varies from year to year, this year the festival falls on June 20. However, it will be celebrated on different dates throughout California. The food traditionally eaten at the celebration include zongzi (sticky rice treats), drinking Realgar wine, however treats like cupcakes and other Asian cuisine is available.

boat2This year the San Francisco International Dragon Boat Festival will take place on September 19-20, on Treasure Island. For the Dragon Boat Race team biographies can be viewed on the San Francisco website: www.sfdragonboat.com, visiting teams can also register on the same website. This year’s catering menu includes a variety of dishes from “Thai & Thai”, “Kau Kau Corner”, and “Saigon BBQ”, with price ranges from as low as $3 to $10. There will also be food booths and trucks offer in people a large variety of food to feast on. The race courses are 500 meters and 300 meters, and winning requires speed, endurance and synchronicity. Each long, narrow boat, decorated with a dragon’s head and tail, holds 20 paddlers, a drummer to set the pace and a helmsman. Luckily this is a free festival so the number of acts and performances people get to see aren’t limited.

A lot of other entertainment by performance groups has been scheduled for that Saturday and Sunday, including;

  • martial arts demonstrations: Tai Chi, and others
  • Chinese acrobats
  • Dance performances: Chinese and Chinese Folk, Indian, Hip Hop, Tahitian, Filipino, Lion and Dragon Dance
  • Magic Shows
  • Music: Gospel

There are a lot of activities planned for kids this year, such as;

  • An express yourself art center: Making dancing dragons, animal masks
  • Kid rides: Ride the Choo Choo Express, Spinning Dragons, Mini Helicopters, The Pirate Obstacle Playhouse, The Pirate Ship Swing
  • kid games: Tic-Tac-Toe, Bean Bag Toss, Skee Ball, Wheel of Luck
  • Sit in a real dragon boat on land
  • See Live Reptiles of Tree Frog Treks
  • Experience the thrill of Spider Mountain
  • Try a spin on the Spin Art Bicycle
  • Watching Dragon Boat Race



Apart from the celebration in San Francisco, a Long Beach festival is scheduled for July 18-19th this year. It will be held at Marin Stadium in Long Beach with a lot of traditional Chinese art demonstrations. The entertainment is to include acrobat shows, dance, music, martial arts and hip hop performances. This is a much smaller celebration as compared to the San Francisco festival, the entertainment schedule id smaller and shorter as well, however, they are both some of the largest in the state. Both events receive a lot of sponsors for the event itself, as well as media sponsors.

About Terry Qin

Terry Qin is a 27-year-old R&D engineer from Shenzhen currently living in the US. He is interested in programming, new trends and blogging.