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Dragon Boat Festival a Schuylkill River regatta race with Chinese-inspired boats

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter
There’s a dramatic legend behind how dragon boat racing began.
According to the website of the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival, Qu Yuan, a fourth century statesman, poet and advisor to the king, was banished after advice he gave to the king was misinterpreted as an attempt to assume greater political power. Overwhelmed by sorrow, he threw himself into the torrents of the Milou River, but some local fishermen raced out onto the water to save him. The fishermen wildly beat their drums and splashed the water with their paddles to prevent the water dragons and fish from eating Qu Yuan.
So that somehow got turned into a boat race?
There are more than 40 countries with International Dragon Boat Federation chapters. Dragon boat racing is for men and women of various ages and abilities. The Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival is being run for the 15th time, with boats festooned with colored dragon heads and tails.

Teams of 20 rowers in colorful Dragon Boats paddle down the Schuylkill River along Kelly Drive for this annual October festival. Spectators can cheer on their favorite team while enjoying food, music and activities along the river bank. Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

Teams of 20 rowers in colorful Dragon Boats paddle down the Schuylkill River along Kelly Drive for this annual October festival. Spectators can cheer on their favorite team while enjoying food, music and activities along the river bank. Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

When is the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival?
8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1. There will be food, music, vendors and other activities.
How does the race work?
The crews have a maximum of 20 paddlers that have to move in unison. Those with experience know that a team in sync will almost always beat a less coordinated team, even if they have big muscles.
There’s a steersperson in the back of the boat and a drummer in the front. The steersperson is the team captain, who steers the crew with a long oar. The drummer assists in setting the timing for the team by keying off the two paddlers at the front of the boat, better known as the stroke. The drummer’s rhythm can fire up the crew if they’re working well together.
How do I go see this?
It’s in the Boathouse Row area of Fairmount Park. Travel on Kelly Drive will be restricted, and parking on Kelly Drive is likely to be scarce. So your best bet is to park in East Fairmount Park. The fee for parking is $12 and shuttle buses will be provided. Packing a picnic is a smart idea.
Hey, the teams aren’t all-men or all-women.
Most internationally competing crews are either all-male or -female, but national and regional events attract primarily mixed teams from businesses, service groups and high school clubs. Teams that enter the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival must have a minimum of eight female paddlers.
Is there a website? A Facebook page?
That’s www.philadragonboatfestival.com and www.facebook.com/PIDBF.

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