The 19th Dragon Boat Festival held at Lake Lanier in mid-September attracted 50 rowing teams — some with exotic names such as “Shut Up and Paddle,” or “AT&T: No Texting While Paddling” — and 7,000 supporters of what has become an Atlanta tradition.
While Dragon Boat Festivals have been celebrated in Hong Kong for 2,000 years, Atlanta’s tradition can be traced to the few teams and boats organized in 1995 by Gene Hanratty, the festival’s founder here and a senior consultant to the city’s Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.
The following year the Lake Lanier setting was the rowing and paddling venue for the 1996 Olympic Games, which was widely considered as one of the most outstanding venues of the games due to its ideal conditions for the water sports and its pastoral setting.
Steve Barclay, the recently appointed director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, made his first trip official trip outside of New York to join Mr. Hanratty for the festival.
While political storm clouds begin to hover over Hong Kong itself due to an Aug. 31 ruling giving the Chinese government control over the candidate for the next leadership election in 2017, Mr. Barclay put these sorts of concerns aside and enjoyed a beautiful sunny fall day in the midst of the festivities
“Hong Kong is the protest capital of the world,” he told Global Atlanta. With the election still three years away, he suggested that the final arrangements may not be permanently resolved.
The teams represented a wide variety of companies and educational institutions as well as local Southeast Asian communities.
Once the 39-foot teak boats decorated with dragon features had their eyes dotted to wake them up as the custom calls for, and they had been blessed by Bhuddist monks, they were off to the races…leaving Mr. Hanratty thinking about how to top this year’s success with an even more successful 20th anniversary next year.