On October 7, 2017, Philadelphia will host the Dragon Boat Festival, an event with tradition dating back much further than when Joey Vento founded the home of the authentic Philly cheesesteak, Geno’s Steaks, in 1966. According to legend, in 278 B.C. after giving some unpopular advice to the king and being exiled, ancient Chinese poet, statesmen, and advisor to the king, Qu Yuan, drowned himself in the Milou River. Some local fisherman jumped in the water to rescue him while banging drums and splashing with paddles to prevent fish from nibbling on his body.
Modern Dragon Boat races are based upon a re-enactment of the race to save Qu Yuan. Despite this bleak history, the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival is a spectacle of color along the Schuylkill River by Boathouse Row. The event is free to attend. Walking along Kelly Drive, attendees will see several heats of racing boats designed like dragons. The teams are comprised of community, civic, and corporate groups that set up a tented picnic along the riverfront, so attendees can grab a snack and meet the paddlers!
The 26-mile Schuylkill River Trail is also a great place walk along the water and gaze at the fall foliage. In October, the trail will boast brilliant red, yellow, orange, and purple leaves and perfect views of Boathouse Row and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The day will begin at 8 a.m., so be sure to get there in the morning to grab a scenic spot on the grass. The race schedule will be posted as the event gets closer, so keep checking in for more information. The festival is a great opportunity to gather the family, pack a picnic (or grab an authentic Philly cheesesteak from Geno’s Steaks), and watch the fierce competition.