Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dragons were seen on the Cuyahoga

September 17,  the 2011 Dragon Boat Festival was held in Cleveland, OH

With local, national and international teams competing, the Cuyahoga River was alive with action yesteray. Racing three boats at a time, contestants paddled from Jacobs Pavillion almost to the mouth of the Cuyahoga.

Dragon boat racing is an amateur sport that can trace its history back over 2,000 years in Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands. Its been a competitive sport since international racing began in Hong Kong in 1976. Yesterday's event was put on by the Cleveland Dragon Boat Association and Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing LLC.

Steeped in history, there is a spiritual component as well. In keeping with tradition, the Cleveland Dragon Boat race began yesterday with a Buddhist ceremonial blessing of the boats and the participants.

The Venerable Shih Ying-Fa, a local Buddhist monk, performed the celebration on the steps of the Powerhouse alongside the river. The ceremony concluded with bringing the dragon heads to life, called "awakening of the dragon". At this point, with the crowd cheering in the background, the monk painted the eyes of the ceremonial dragon heads, symbolizing the end of their sleep, and the start of the competition.

After the blessing, three boat races continued morning and afternoon. Entrants ran the gamut from high schoolers to senior citizens. Each long boat held twenty paddlers, one drummer to set the rowing cadence and one tiller to steer the boat.

"There's too many people in that skinny boat. I think they are going to tip over?" worried one young spectator. "I hope not," his mother said. "That's your grandmother in there." Grandma didn't tip over, and her boat went on to win that heat.
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