Annual Dragon Boat Festival honors Asian and Asian American heritage.

For nearly 20 years, people have flocked to Sloan's Lake to be immersed in culture and fun at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. Founded in 2001, the festival first drew a crowd of 11,000 attendees, and it was such a fun event, that now more than 120,000 attendees gather for the festivities. Asian and Asian American culture, food, traditions, and more take center stage at this festival.

This year's highlighted country is Vietnam, and the festival is celebrating the Year of the Pig.

"The mission of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival is to build bridges of awareness, knowledge, and understanding between diverse Asian Pacific American communities and the general public through cultural education, leadership development, and athletic competition," says the festival website. "It was the dream of three Denver area Asian community leaders who wanted to showcase the growing and diverse Asian community to the public at large (and to each ethnic community under the "Asian" and "Asian American" umbrella)."

The highlight, of course, is the Dragon Boat racing, which is an ancient Chinese sport that has gained much popularity in the U.S. Steeped in tradition, dragon boating is over 2,000 years old. According to the festival website, the sport began in ancient China when Chu Yuan, a poet, warrior, and loyal aid to the Emperor, fell victim to plots and deception and fell out of favor with the Court. When the old Emperor died, Chu Yuan was unjustly banished and wandered the countryside writing poems he hoped would be heard and heeded by the new Emperor. Despondent, he finally threw himself into the Mi Lo River. His devoted followers, learning of his death, beat their paddles on the water and banged drums and gongs to frighten away the fish from Chu Yuan’s body. Athletes all over the world still meet to commemorate Yuan’s sacrifice for honor and justice.

dragon boat performance

Courtesy of Colorado Dragon Boat Festival.

While the races are a crowd-pleaser, there is a ton to do at the festival, including booths, performances, demonstrations, and so much more. Over 180 performers and vendors will be on hand for the celebration, and the traditional lion dance event is a must-see. Check out some of the activities that are available, according to Denver.org:

  • Five performing arts stages with nearly 100 shows.
  • An Asian Marketplace featuring gifts, artwork, crafts, and novelties from Asia and the Pacific.
  • The Taste of Asia Food Court showcasing some of the area’s best Asian restaurants and chefs preparing a weekend’s worth of dishes from a variety of Asian cuisines, as well a beer garden.
  • Dragonland, where kiddos and adults can take part in hands-on learning projects, from kite making to tea education and cooking demos, as well as a bungee trampoline.
  • A traditional lion dance extravaganza.
  • Interactive events, including a spicy ramen-eating contest, tea services, spring roll-making classes, pho tastings, and dance instruction.

asian cuisine

Lots of tasty treats will be on hand at the festival. Courtesy of Colorado Dragon Boat Festival.

The Important Stuff:

Date: July 27-28, 2019
Location: Sloan's Lake
Parking: Auraria Campus, 5th Street Garage

  • Free shuttle to the event (10-minute ride)​
  • One minute from Auraria West light rail stops and bus stops 

Races: Sat. and Sun., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Marketplace and Food: Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun. 10a.m.-5 p.m.
Stages: Sat. 12-7 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Schedules and Activities

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