Dozens of boats wait patiently at the starting line to dig their oars into the water. Crowds of people watch them, their patience thinning quickly from all the excitement. The dragon boat race is seconds away from commencing.
St. Martin’s University will host the 12th annual Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, April 29. The free event will consist of music, performances and, of course, the boat race. Among the highly anticipated performances at the festival are the St. Martin’s University Hawaii Club performers, the Taiko Drum Group from River Ridge High School, and the Lion dance. Event organizers expect this year’s festival to attract between 5,000 and 6,000 people.
According to Sally Henry, the university’s development associate of fundraising events, over 50 teams from Portland to Seattle are participating in this year’s event. She says each team consists of 20–24 paddlers competing in one of four divisions: community (novices), women’s, competitive mixed and juniors. “We provide the training and equipment for all the community teams,” says Henry, “if there is a community organization interested in participating. It’s a great team-building opportunity.”
A tradition that dates back to fourth-century China, dragon boat racing is said to commemorate famed poet Qu Yuan, who threw himself into the Milo River to protest the political turmoil and suffering of the people at that time. Today dragon boat races are an opportunity to celebrate culture and community, says Henry, adding, “We hope attendees will enjoy this unique cultural experience, feel a sense of community, and experience St. Martin’s University at its best.”
Josephine Yung, the university’s vice president of international programs and development, notes that St. Martin’s has been an integral part of the community since 1895. “We always want to give back to the community and create a cultural event to bring together community, have fun and celebrate diversity.”
St. Martin’s University 12th Annual Dragon Boat Festival
701 Columbia St. NW, Olympia
Saturday, April 29, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
images by: Joe Saladino