WATCH: The Colorado Dragon Boat Festival makes modern community from an ancient tradition

KEVIN-lighter

The Colorado Dragon Boat Festival continues through 5 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at Sloan Lake. This video shows our view from the first day – and you can read on for more history and photos.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=_wJn2i_BRlg%26showinfo%3D0

Gil Asakawa and the other organizers of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival expected a modest crowd when they launched the event in 2001. Instead, Asakawa says, more than 15,000 people appeared – far too many for the five humble food stalls that were set up.

Fifteen years later, the Dragon Boat Festival expects more than 100,000 attendees.

While the festival can be traced to ancient Chinese tradition, it’s meant to unify more than ten distinct Asian communities. From Indians to Koreans to Myanmar’s exiled Mon, all groups with this shared geographic identity are lifted up into the public eye.

A Zen Buddhist recites a Dharma to open the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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A Zen Buddhist recites a Dharma to open the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Zen Bhuddists stand at the edge of Sloan Lake during a ceremony to dot dragon boats' eyes, bringing them to life for the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Zen Bhuddists stand at the edge of Sloan Lake during a ceremony to dot dragon boats' eyes, bringing them to life for the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Breakdancers spin under the Cultural Unity tent at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Breakdancers spin under the Cultural Unity tent at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A DJ spins vinyl for breakdancers under the Cultural Unity tent at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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A DJ spins vinyl for breakdancers under the Cultural Unity tent at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A young man is not so sure about this flaming concrete that a karate master will attempt to break with his bare hands at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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A young man is not so sure about this flaming concrete that a karate master will attempt to break with his bare hands at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A Chinese lion operated by Kung Fu students bounces up and down at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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A Chinese lion operated by Kung Fu students bounces up and down at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Sloan Lake during the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Sloan Lake during the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Neeti Pawar spins in circles during the Mudra Dance Studio's performance on the main stage at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival.  (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Neeti Pawar spins in circles during the Mudra Dance Studio's performance on the main stage at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)