They may look like vessels out of some fairy tale or opium dream, but the centuries-old tradition of Chinese dragon boat racing will turn Buffalo Bayou into the Yangtze River at the 2005 Houston Dragon Boat Festival. "It's visually dynamic and requires a lot of teamwork," says Texas Dragon Boat Association organizer Eugene Lee. "And it's not only an Asian cultural tradition but an international sport." The 40-foot-long, colorfully decorated boats are made of fiberglass and teak. Each will carry 20 paddlers, a steersman and a drummer; teams will compete for the revered Dragon Cup in a series of races.
Dragon boat racing began around 277 BC to honor Qu Yuan, a Chinese scholar, statesman and poet who fell out of favor with the government and drowned himself in the Mi Lo River. Distraught villagers paddled their fishing boats for days in search of his remains, decorating their vessels with dragon heads to ward off evil spirits and pitching rice dumplings into the water to keep hungry fish away from his body. (And this in a time before bass-finding sonar systems.)
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In addition to races, you can expect entertainment, music, local celebs and a closing ceremony with everyone's favorite ambassadors of Asian culture: the Houston Texans cheerleaders. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 7. Allen's Landing, Commerce at Main. For information, call 832-687-7208 or visit www.texasdragonboat.com. Free. -- Bob Ruggiero
Walk It Off
You've been meaning to burn off your expanding beer tummy, but somehow you just can't commit to that treadmill at Bally's. At Step Forward to Cure Tuberous Sclerosis, you can get your cardio while helping a worthwhile cause. The three-mile walk raises funds and awareness for the devastating genetic disorder. "We're hoping to raise $30,000 this year," says Karen Cameron, a race organizer whose daughter is coping with the disease. You can download a pledge form at the group's Web site and collect contributions, or just pledge your own donation. "Any support at all is appreciated," adds Cameron. Aside from the feel-good vibes, the event promises door prizes, entertainment for the kiddos, and hot dogs and refreshments. (Try to go easy on the hot dogs, champ.) 9 a.m. registration; 10 a.m. walk. Saturday, May 7. MacGregor Park, 5225 Calhoun. For information and preregistration, call 713-937-8309 or visit www.tsalliance.org. Free. -- Steven Devadanam