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2020 Northern California Dragon Boat Festival | Lake Merritt

Cheer on the fleet of colorful 40-foot dragon boats as teams from all over Northern California race to the beat of Chinese drums on Saturday & Sunday, September 19 & 20, 2020.

This two-day, admission-free festival brings a weekend of world-class dragon boat racing, spectacular cultural performances, delicious food, a variety of clothes and crafts vendors, and kid-friendly activities in Dragon Land where games and arts & crafts await.

25th Annual Northen California Int’l Dragon Boat Festival
September 19 & 20, 2020
Lake Merritt, Oakland

> View 2020 Festival Entertainment Schedule TBA

Over 20 years ago, the first dragon boat team in the U.S. was started in Oakland by the Oakland Fire Department. Today that racing spirit is kept alive by the city of Oakland’s very own competitive dragon boat racing team, the Oakland Renegades. Each day several boats will compete against each other by creating a colorful spectacle on Oakland’s beautiful Lake Merritt.

Please note that we’ve confirmed the 2020 date, but event details are still not available as of 3/16/20. For an idea of what to expect, here’s what happened in 2019.

Festival Highlights

  • The Racing-Over 120 dragon boat teams representing local corporations and non-profits as well as competitive teams from across the globe. Come watch your favorite Bay Area corporations, community groups and novice teams battle it out on the water. This year, a dragon boat team from Kiel, Germany – San Francisco’s most recent sister city, will be joining in the competition.
  • Cultural Roots– Don’t miss the Opening Ceremony on Saturday at 11:30 am, where Buddhist monks will perform a traditional blessing and eye dotting ceremony to awaken the dragons for a weekend of racing. The Opening Ceremony also features lion dancing and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir singing the National Anthem.
  • Cultural Entertainment- On stage, there will be Chinese acrobats, Taiko drumming, Tahitian dancing, martial arts, magic shows, and other special performances.
  • Food Vendors- Check out the food selection, including some of the bay area’s favorite food vendors. Taste the cuisines of asia, including Thai, Japanese, and Filipino. Try exciting varieties of Hawaiian dishes and fusion food including Sushi Burritos and chicken wonton tacos. Enjoy a cup of coffee or snack on kettle corn while you watch amazing races and great entertainment. There are also plenty of kid-friendly options to explore. Cool off with a smoothie, Boba Tea, ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, or dairy-free ice cream beads. Then, enjoy shopping at our marketplace where you’ll find everything from dragon boat gear to specialty gifts.
  • Festival Marketplace– Visit the Kaiser Permanente Health and Fitness Pavilion and get an airbrush dragon tattoo or take a break at the sunscreen bar. Visit the HSBC Lounge or shop at one of the many vendors selling everything from paddling gear to arts and crafts to Oakland themed apparel.
  • Kids Zone-The two-day fest is perfect for families and children. Dragon Land is an entire kids zone, filled with arts & crafts, games & prizes, obstacle courses, science experiments and more. You can make a dancing dragon, create giant sunglasses, decorate your own medal, or work with Junior Center of Art and Science staff to design and race a boat made with recycled cork and rubber bands. You can also play a variety of free games with prizes, climb in a real dragon boat, get your face painted or a temporary tattoo, and much more.

This year’s Festival will also present the new Sports Zone at Dragon Land powered by Net Generation with Bay Area professional sports organizations, including the US Tennis Association and the San Jose Earthquakes. Kids of all ages can try their hand at the Fast Serve Booth, an inflatable tennis cage, practice their soccer skills in the San Jose Earthquake’s oversized inflatable soccer goal.

What is Dragon Boat Racing?
Dragon boat racing is based on power, speed, synchronization, and endurance. The boats themselves are colorfully decorated with ornately carved dragon’s head at the bow, a tail in the stern, and a 40-foot-long hull painted with dragon’s scales. The dragon’s “claws” are the 20 paddlers propelling the boat to the pace of the seated drummer at the front and kept in line by the steersperson at the back, steering with an elongated oar.

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