Dragon boats were back in the water during the 8th annual Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Sponsored by The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, this event is a way to foster community togetherness. It also serves to promote Asian and Asian American culture and customs.
Barbara Ransome, the chamber director of operations, said dozens of community organizations and business groups participated during the event, bringing together hundreds more community members.
“This is six months in the making,” Ransome said. “It’s a tremendous amount of organizing, not only with the teams … but all of this entertainment. It’s wonderful to see this all going well, flawlessly and without a hitch.”
A total of 23 teams participated in the boat races. Among the organizations represented in the dragon boat competition were Stony Brook University, Suffolk County Police Asian Jade Society, Mather and St. Charles hospitals, and club teams from as far as New York City, among others.
The day kicked off with the ceremonial “Dotting of the Eyes.” During this ritual, team captains and local officials painted a dragon head. Among them was Port Jeff village trustee Rebecca Kassay, who described the rush of this ceremonial gesture.
“It was a beautiful moment to dot the eyes and tongue and forehead of the dragon,” she said. “You feel connected with the people around you, and I think that’s something we’re missing these days. To be a part of something where you’re connecting with others is really special.”
This year was Kassay’s first dragon boat festival. For her, the event was an opportunity to celebrate the community’s rich culture and diverse people. “I am so delighted to see so many people come out, the diversity of people here, and the enthusiasm of everyone here for this cultural event on Port Jefferson Harbor,” Kassay said.
Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) also made an appearance. He seemed overjoyed by the festival’s sizable turnout and the many people he encountered throughout the day.
“I’m excited to see our friends here, especially my friends from Long Island Youth Development and the Chinese School at Stony Brook,” he said. “We are excited to enjoy the awakened spirit of Port Jeff Harbor for another year.”
Kornreich also recognized the festival as a cause for celebration. He described the invaluable contributions of Asian Americans and their steadfast commitment to building a stronger community.
“The Asian American population here in our area is growing,” he said. “They have a huge presence and enrich our community so much with their culture and with their friendship, as with their dedication to the community.” He added, “They’re an amazing group of people, and we’re just excited to enjoy this day with them.”
The East Setauket-based LI Youth Development Inc., or LIYD, is a nonprofit organization founded in 2021. The organization is dedicated to supporting the community youth through extracurricular programs. LIYD instructors host weekly sessions to reinforce these skills regularly.
“We started as a way to help teach kids around our communities about different topics and subjects,” said LIYD member Luke Hou. “For example, we have a bunch of different clubs inside of LIYD that each teach their own thing, like tennis club, art club, music club and so on.”
David Wu, one of Hou’s team members, discussed how the lessons of teamwork and cooperation learned from the dragon boat competition harmonize with LIYD’s organizational principles. “Although this is our first year competing, through the practices it has been pretty fun,” he said.
Several dance and choral groups gave moving performances throughout the day. These often paid homage to the cultural and linguistic traditions of the performers.