Voyaging from ancient China to Marine Stadium for the 2012 Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival this weekend, dragon boat races will be a spectacle of artistry--except for a few people competing in them.
For the celebrities and local government official rowing blindfolded in a show of solidarity with "Blind Start of America" -- a team of sight-challenged individuals competing in the VIP division of the races -- it will be more than a chance to showcase their skills while paddling blind.
“20 (10 blind, 10 blindfolded), sightless paddlers will paddle as one representing the Blind Start of America, sharing the challenges of the blind and visually impaired,” said Alex Lingad, Dragon Boat Team Manager, on Blind Start's facebook page.
Paddlers will represent the organization Blind Start of America, which was founded by its current president, Brian Tom, to help blind and visually impaired people learn and develop job skills to lead lives of independence. It's the latest in a series of events undertaken by BSA to show off a vision of helping blind individuals gain skills.
The VIP Division Race kicks-off at 11:24 a.m. Saturday morning with Entourage’s Robin Arcuri and model Mark Mann joining the festival’s president and founder Dr. Howard Chen, Artesia Mayor Pro Tem Sally Flowers, Cerritos Mayor Pro Tem Bruce W. Barrows and several other Cerritos city officials for sightless paddling.
It’s the third year Blind Start is participating in the races and as 2012 is the year of the water dragon--a legendary creature traditionally revered as a symbol of heavenly power--the team used the scales of the dragon to spell the word “VISION” in Braille, according to their facebook page.
Similar to canoes, the decorative long boats powered by paddling have been around since the times of the original Olympic games. A common occurrence since they were first held in southern China two millenia ago, dragon boat races have survived to become a modern international sport, first established in 1976 in Hong Kong.
In addition to competitions, the weekend festival in Long Beach will also feature Polynesian and salsa dancers, magic acts, Shoalin martial arts demonstrations and hip-hop DJs, among other entertainment.
The Marine Stadium is located at 5225 East Paoli Way, Long Beach, CA 90803. For more information about the festival, click here; for a race schedule, click here and to support the Blind Start of America, click here.