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Dragon Boat Race Registration Deadline Looms

By Casey Cora | April 29, 2014 12:55pm
 Competitors at the Dragon Boat Race for Literacy in Chinatown race to capture a flag in the Chicago River.
Competitors at the Dragon Boat Race for Literacy in Chinatown race to capture a flag in the Chicago River.
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Flickr/Terence Faircloth

CHINATOWN — If your company or group is thinking of forming a team for the Dragon Boat Race for Literacy, it's time to commit.

The deadline to reserve a boat for the the annual fundraising event is Thursday. Organizers said teams don't have to have their rosters set by then, but do need to pay the $750 registration fee and fill out the paperwork, available here.

Applications submitted without the payment will be considered "tentative," race organizers said.

This year’s competition takes place 8 a.m.-5 p.m. June 28 at Ping Tom Park. The event will feature daylong races, food and cultural performances.

Held in the Chicago River's south branch, the festive races are a fundraiser for various local groups promoting literacy. Each year, the event draws thousands of onlookers who cheer on the ornately decorated boats.

"It's all fun. It’s not competitive. The races are actually the Taiwanese, not Hong Kong style, so the boats are a bit clunkier and not built for speed as much," said Sandy Tang, 35, a race organizer and competitor.

Each boat requires a minimum of 16 people and a maximum of 20. Teams consist of paddlers, a steersman or "sweep," a flag puller and a drummer whose steady drumbeat keeps paddlers in sync.

During each race, a boat must contain no fewer than six members of a single gender, and all team members must be at least 14 years old.

The tradition of the boat race dates back thousands of years and is popular with Asian communities around the world, organizers say. The event made its debut in Chicago in 2000 and since then it's become a popular team-building event for corporations and organizations.

Today, it's co-hosted by the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce with help from the Chicago Park District, the city's department of cultural affairs and special events, Ald. Danny Solis (25th), the Chicago Marine Heritage Society and Friends of the Chicago River.