background img

Dragon Boat Festival is fun for families

Dragon boat racing is a sport that’s 2,000 years old, and it’s coming back to Denver at the annual Colorado Dragon Boat Festival July 19-20 at Sloan’s Lake Park.

There were an estimated 115,000 attendees at the festival last year, and organizers are anticipating 125,000 for 2014 — much more than the original 15,000 that attended the first festival in 2001, said Gil Asakawa, chair of the media committee.

Although the festival is named after the dragon boat races, it’s also a celebration of traditional and contemporary Asian cultures, of which there are nearly 50 distinct ethnicities, said executive director Erin Yoshimura.

“They all vary in food, clothing, language, culture and tradition,” Yoshimura said. “So we really want to bring together people to educate them about the differences in an entertaining yet engaging way.”

There will be six stages hosting 120 different art performances, including the Japanese Obon dance (a similar concept to American line dancing) which will be taught to festival attendees by the performers, said Asakawa.

“We try to be interactive with the festival guests and try to get them to experience and be hands on with Asian culture as a way to learn about us rather than just sitting back and watching,” Asakawa said.

This year’s featured culture is the Philippines. Food demonstrations and art performances by Filipino artists will be hosted in the Gateway to Asia stage and nearby tents.

Food is a huge part of the festival. This year there are two food tents on either side of the festival grounds that will host Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Hmong, Thai, Filipino and even American foods.

New to the food aspect this year is the Culinary Dojo event, which will run throughout the day on both days. Chefs will teach guests how to prepare, cook and serve various Asian dishes.

“Since our food is so popular, we thought, ‘Let’s take it a step further and engage the audience by teaching them how to cook some Asian dishes,’ ” Yoshimura said.

Another very popular event is the band stage, which showcases Asian American bands and musicians who perform blues, jazz, rock n’ roll, hip-hop and other familiar styles of music.

“Our emphasis hasn’t always been on just traditional Asian culture, because we’re not all about kimonos and doing traditional dances,” Asakawa said.

“We can do all this stuff, sing and play music that a lot of people might not expect. I love that aspect of the festival.”

Jordan Gonzalez:

Colorado Dragon Boat Festival The festival is held at Sloan’s Lake Park and runs from July 19-20. Dragon boat races begin at 8 a.m. both days. All other events begin at 10 a.m. and go until 7 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday. Sloan’s Lake Park, West 17th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard.

Attendees are asked to park at Sports Authority Field in lots G, H, I and J (off Federal Boulevard and West 20th Avenue). A free shuttle will be provided to Sloan’s Lake. Parking is $5.