Wow! Dragon boat races and lion dancers at the Echo Park Lotus Festival

Dragon boats at 2015 Lotus Festival
The dragon boats approached the shore where two Buddhist monks were waiting to give their blessing. Nice to see that KhmerTV t-shirt indicating that the Cambodians were represented, too

I had read somewhere that the Lotus Festival at the Echo Park lake this year was supposed to celebrate Mongolian culture.  Well, it started off with a big bang of Chinese culture.  The dragon boats were in the lake preparing to be blessed by two Buddhist monks in brilliant orange robes.  I later learned that almost any group of eight people–4 women and 4 men–can form a team and enter the dragon boat races.  Some teams are corporate.  Some are representatives of non-profits.  All were having a very fun time.  Check with the Lotus Festival’s Facebook page if you are interested in paddling a Dragon boat next year.

The dragon boats, BTW, are simply two metal row boats that have been affixed to each other stern-to-stern.  The dragon head is attached to the prow of one boat; the dragon tail to the prow of the other boat, which is facing the opposite direction.  Oh, the boats have been painted to represent dragon ‘scales’.

Four young ladies who are candidates for Miss Young Philippines USA were in the audience watching the Lion Dancers.
Four young ladies who are candidates for Miss Young Philippines USA were in the audience watching the Lion Dancers.

The dragon boat races were continuing when I heard the familiar thrum of a drum and the clash of cymbals — the sound that announces that the Lion Dancers are starting to perform.  The crowd included 4 young ladies who are vying for the title of Miss Young Philippines USA title.

And yes.  The lotus were in bloom. So exquisitely beautiful they seem unreal.

The 2016 Lotus Festival is July 9 and 10.

Here are some photos of what I saw:

Dragon sculpture at Lotus Festival
The dragon sculpture representing the Lotus Festival this year. This event is put on by the L.A. City Parks and Recreation Department.
blessing dragon boats and paddlers
The two monks blessed the dragon boats and the paddlers with prayers and incense.
Oranges, choclates and incense for the dragon boats
After the blessing by the monks, they threw chocolates from the basket onto the boats as an additional blessing. The crowd joined in, casting as many chocolates into the water as onto the boats. The lady in the blue lifejacket is affixing incense on the dragon’s head. The oranges stayed in the basket.
start of first dragon boat race at Lotus Festival
They’re off…in the first dragon boat race of the day at the Lotus Festival.
And the drgon boat winner is
The black dragon boat won by almost a minute. They raced from one end of the lake to the other.
Lion dancers on stage at the Lotus Festival. A drum, cymbals made for lots of noise.
Lion dancers on stage at the Lotus Festival. The familiar noise of a drum and cymbals announced to the whole neighborhood that Lion Dancers had come to bring good luck to the event.
Lotus blooming at Echo Park
Lotus flowers in bloom. The story is that evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson planted the first lotus in Echo Park Lake almost a century ago. The church she founded, Angelus Temple, is across the street from the park.  The original plants died out a few years back–perhaps of old age–and have since been replanted by the city of Los Angeles.

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