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La Liga de Las Americas

Dragon Boat Festival invites Latino participation in ‘08

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Cleveland Correspondent


Cleveland, The Flats, Sept. 1, 2007: It was a beautiful Labor Day Saturday, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels soared on clear blue skies, practicing stunts for the Air Show. The Nautica Queen Cruise Ship sailed Lake Erie and dragons slithered through the crooked, serpent-like Cuyahoga River.


Meanwhile, the Flats Oxbow Association and Cleveland Rowing Foundation hosted the 3rd Annual Dragon Boat Festival at the Cyrus Restaurant in the Flats.

Awakening the Dragon: Buddhist monk Ven Shih Ying-Fa paints the pupil of the dragon to awaken its spirit.


“Dragon Boat racing is the fastest growing water sport in the world,” said Mark Silverstein from the Cleveland Rowing Foundation.


The festival roots from Chinese mythology and is celebrated throughout the world. The ancient Chinese would race dragon boats to appease the sea deities to ward off famine, disease and attract rains needed for prosperity.


Seven teams of twenty-five people raced 300 meters from the Plain Dealer Pavilion to Shooters.

The dragon heads were blessed by a priest and a Buddhist monk performed rites to ‘awaken’ the dragon. Silk scarves were tied around the dragon heads, pupils painted in their sockets before they were anchored on the 40-feet long, flat-water canoes and declared ready for competition.


Michael Ciccarello, member of the organizing committee, said racing dragon boats requires team work, timing, and camaraderie, which build strong communities. “It a great way to come together and see what other cultures have to offer,” he said. Ciccarello hopes one of the Dragon Boats, which costs nearly $12,000, will stay in Cleveland permanently and help create the Cleveland Dragon Boat League. 


He also hopes the festival will grow next year and bring all the ethnic communities together and engage them in this healthy sport. “As we have more interaction between people, we start realizing how we are all the same,” said Ciccarello. 

Child standing among the Dragonhead


An invitation has been extended to Councilman Joe Santiago

Silverstein said an invitation has been extended to Councilman Joe Santiago to sponsor a boat for the 2008 event, which is already in its planning phase.


Silverstein first brought the Dragon Boats Festival to Cleveland in 2003 and says the Cleveland waterfront offers a perfect location for this sport and he hopes the festival will grow. This year’s festival was free to the public and anyone eager to paddle the river could sign up for $20, receive a T-shirt, and join one of the seven competing teams.


The Health Net team won the races and grabbed the first-place position, closely beating Team Twist. Third place went to Dream Team, a group of breast cancer survivors from Akron. Douglas Wagner, MD, bought a dragon boat for his patients to motivate them to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.


The Dream Team has 100 members ranging in age from 34 to 76. “When we are out there, we feel like we are in control,” said Susan Blamert, Dream Team rower. This was the team’s second race since forming in June 2007. “Everyone was a winner,” said Silverstein.  

Chinese Acrobats getting ready to perform


The festival offered Chinese acrobats and a dazzling magic show performed by Connie Zhang. Her candy trick was very popular with the children and hungry seagulls, swooping in to satisfy their sweet cravings.

To learn more about the Dragon Boasts Festival and to get involved next year visit online: www.clevelanddragonboatfestival.com



Dream Team

Magician and Acrobat instructor Connie Zhang

Chinese Acrobats







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