Qu Yuan was considered a man of great respect in his day.
That day was 2,400 years ago in the 4 th Century B.C., when he was a poet, minister and a respected counsel to Chinese Emperor Chu. But when he wrote poems that the Emperor considered politically incorrect, he was exiled from the kingdom.
Shamed and saddened over what happened, Qu Yuan jumped into the Mi Lo River and drowned. Local fishermen raced their long, swift boats to the spot as quickly as they could, but it was too late. In an effort to prevent the fish from eating his body, they splashed their oars and even tossed wrapped rice dumplings into the water.
The annual Dragon Boat Race Festival that developed from this moment in China’s history is a symbol of the country’s culture and one of its largest annual festivals. The celebration is usually held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
According to lore, eyes are painted on the dragon head at the front of the boat to "Awaken the Dragon." This tradition began centuries ago when one of the best Chinese artists commissioned to do the honor of painting the dragons on the boats added eyes to the Dragon to "awaken" it – prompting thunder and severe weather. The Chinese believed the Dragon boat had come to life.
Toledo BP refinery and Partners in Education are again teaming up to bring to life the seventh annual Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival on July 26 from International Park. The opening ceremony is at 7 a.m. and the first boats launch at 7:30 a.m.
More than 40 teams and 1,200 participants will paddle a 500-meter, buoy-marked course along the Maumee River from roughly west of the volleyball courts in line with one of the air conditioning units on the roof of the Owens Corning World Headquarters to the boat basin in International Park. Funds raised through festival sponsorship and participation are used to support Toledo public and parochial schools.
The dragon boats -- which are coming to Toledo from Toronto - are 40 feet long and complete with dragon head and tail. Teams are comprised of 25 people, including crew members rowing the boat, a steersman and a drummer to keep the beat so rowing is done in unison for best propulsion. At least eight women must be paddling on each boat to be eligible.
The teams are comprised of area companies, industry and other organizations. Toledo police and fire will compete against each other. Toledo Public Schools will also be among the competitors, along with the 180 th Air National Guard, Fifth Third Bank, HCR Manor Care, Key Bank, Marathon, Campbell Soup, Owens Corning and others.
Four teams compete at a time using eight boats in an alternating manner, entering and exiting the water from the boat basin at International Park. Trophies will be awarded for race times and special categories. Like opponents compete against other teams in their industry or category.
First-round times decide the second race positions and finally the championship rounds. Each team gets two 75-minute practices sometime from July 21-24 in advance of the races on July 26.
Beyond the racing, the Dragon Boat Festival offers a variety of entertainment for landlubbers too, including live music, entertainment, food, a children’s activity area with inflatables and various cultural activities presented by the Chinese Association of Greater Toledo. For the third year, the association plans to have a "Day in China Village" to help promote cultural understanding and education.
The event is held annually to generate program support for Partners In Education, a non-profit organization that develops and fosters partnerships between area schools and northwest Ohio businesses, government agencies, organizations and churches.
Partners In Education focuses its programs in the Toledo Public Schools and select schools of the Diocese of Toledo, where there is the greatest need for community support of students. For more information, visit www.partnerstoledo.org.