As teams paddled canoes on Brush Creek Saturday morning, Chris Jackson’s 6-year-old son, Jamaal, had a question.
“Why do the boats have dragon heads?” he asked.
“Because this is adragon boat race
,” his father answered. “They’ve done it in China for a long time. Now we’re doing it here. Isn’t that fun?”
dragons,” his son said.
Others did, too.
As dozens of red Chinese lanterns brightened the friendship bridge on the Country Club Plaza, hundreds of people lined Brush Creek to watch teams compete in the 8th annual Dragon Boat Festival. The celebration of Chinese culture — and the sister-city relationship between Kansas City and Xi’an, a city of more than 8 million in central China — was sponsored by the Society for Friendship With China. Kansas City has been sister cities with Xi’an since 1989.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James praised the celebration as “unique.”
“I don’t know of anything that even comes close in terms of pageantry, the competition, the color, the diversity and the cultural mix,” he said.
It also was important.
“This is a global economy, and the closer we can get to people of different cultures, the less conflict we’re going to have,” he said.
Ruzhang Liu, a University of Kansas student, has seen many dragon boat races in China. He came from Lawrence for the display of cultural diversity.
“I just wanted to witness it,” he said.
Bob Chien, president of the Society for Friendship With China, said the sister-city relationship is good for business. Lately, he said, he’s been recommending local sports architecture firms for jobs designing stadiums in Xi’an.
But then the time for talking was through. A loud horn sounded, and the boats — each with a crew of 10 — began racing. A drummer sat in the bow of each boat, pounding out a beat to keep the rowers in sync. Some boats went straight and fast, while others floundered.
When it was over, the SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) team from the University of Missouri - Kansas City won the $1,500 first-place prize in the collegiate division. Last year’s champ, Johnson County Community College, won $1,000 for second, while Kansas State University took home $500 for third. In other races, the downtown Rotary Club (Club 13) beat Kansas City Parks and Recreation in the business division, while the mayor’s Kansas City team won a friendly race against a team from Xi’an.