If you find yourself more towards the west of the city on Saturday, October 6, stroll up Kelly Drive along the Schuylkill River for an unusually colorful and dramatic regatta, the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Festival, Philadelphia’s annual celebration of an ancient Chinese tradition.
Dragon Boat racing dates back to 278 B.C., when the ancient Chinese poet and statesmen, Qu Yuan, drowned himself in the Milou River. According to legend, local fishermen rushed out to rescue him, banging drums and splashing furiously with their paddles, hoping the uproar would deter dragons and fish from eating his body.
Fast-forward to modern day. The ceremonial dragon boats, festooned in brilliantly colored dragon heads and tails, are manned by teams of 20 paddlers from community, civic and corporate groups and compete against each other in several heats throughout the day.
Meanwhile, each team sets up a tented picnic area along the riverfront, making for a fun and festive atmosphere throughout the day for paddlers and spectators alike.
The starting line is located close to St. Joe’s Boat House, 4 Boathouse Row, so that’s a great spot to set up and watch.
Not to be confused with the Southeast Asian Dragon Boat Festival, an annual summertime event on the Delaware River, the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Fest is a wet and wild family-friendly adventure on the Schuylkill.
2012 Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival
When: Saturday, October 6, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Where: Schuylkill River
Cost: Free to watch
More info: www.philadragonboatfestival.com