By Aidan Johnson
Despite not having any dragon boat racing, the 9th annual Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival was filled with excitement and fun from start to finish Saturday, Sept. 16.
It was deemed early in the day unsafe to hold the boat racing due to rough water conditions in the wake of Hurricane Lee. The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, the organization that hosts this annual tradition, opted for a tug-of-war competition between the dragon boat teams.
“We wanted to kind of create a competitive activity that the teams would embrace,” Barbara Ransome, the chamber’s director of operations, explained. After one of her team partners suggested the tug-of-war, Peter Murphy of Sea Tow Port Jefferson provided the festival with a 40-foot cord to use.
“As you can see, it was great fun and lots of competition,” Ransome added.
Denise Yazak, who was part of Brookhaven National Lab’s Crave the Wave team, took part in the competition. While she was disappointed that she could not serve her role as drummer — who helps keep the paddlers in rhythm and synchronicity, matching the drumbeat with the strokes of the front paddlers — she said she still had a great experience.
“It’s such a cool community-building event, and it’s great to connect with new people, see old friends,” Yazak said. “So even with the weather, it was still an amazing time.”
Vendors set up throughout the day in Port Jeff’s Harborfront Park. The festival also included performances such as karate demonstrations and a showcase from Taiko Tides, a traditional Japanese drumming group from Stony Brook University.
“It’s always exciting to come,” said Louis Truong, a member of Taiko Tides. “They’re always welcoming to us.”
Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay said she was inspired by the number of individuals who turned out and the many different walks of life gathered for the same purpose.
“This festival, in particular, is a beautiful opportunity to build community bridges and celebrate the vibrancy of diversity,” Kassay said in a statement.
“The resilience and adaptability of festival-goers was inspiring as well, as they seamlessly shifted their competitive spirits from dragon boat races to tug-of-war competitions,” she added.