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Dragon Boat Festival draws record crowds to Lanier venue for races, culture
Annual event growing in its 20th year at Olympic course
The Longstreet Clinic team competes in Saturday's Dragon Boat Festival on Lake Lanier. - photo by Charlotte Atkins

For results and more about the Dragon Boat festival, visit its website.

Steve Barclay travels the world.

As a Hong Kong economic and trade office director, it’s his job to promote links between the southeastern China city and the eastern United States.

Among the many places he’s visited, Barclay had this to say about the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue: “This is the best site in America.”

Like more than 8,000 others Saturday, Barclay attended the annual Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, an event that drew record crowds and participation in its 20th year.

“It’s just a magnificent place to hold this event,” Barclay said. “With a venue like this, it’s no wonder the festival is growing, and it’s only going to get bigger.”

Renee Carden, who paddled with the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau team, said participating in the event was “a lot of fun.”

“We won our first heat, and came in second in the second heat,” Carden said. “It was cool to be part of a team, feeling the excitement and energy of working together.”

Lois Jones and husband Paul of Roswell said it was exciting just being a spectator.

“It’s really entertaining,” Lois said. “Not just the race, but everything. You’re taking in all this culture. It actually feels like we’re in another country right now. Pretty neat.”

She said her favorite part of the annual event, which they’ve attended now five years in a row, is the Lion Dance performance. The spectacle is a traditional dance of the Chinese culture in which performers mimic the animal’s movements while sporting a lion costume.

James Murphy, a participant in the traditional Lion Dance, said he takes great pride in being a part of the colorful display.

Murphy, who is of Chinese descent, said it takes “lots and lots of practice to perfect” the dance.

Other features of the festival included a blessing of the boats by Buddhist monks; a water ribbon dance; eye dotting ceremony; and the races themselves.

Hundreds of vendors peddled Chinese-themed wares as well as ethnic cuisine.

“I’m about to go try some of that,” said Kevin Jackson, a spectator at Saturday’s festival. He pointed toward a steaming dish of food.

And that, Barclay said, is what it’s all about.

“This raises awareness and understanding of Hong Kong culture,” Barclay said. “And, I think that’s great.”

For results and more about the Dragon Boat festival, visit its website.