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Pawtucket’s Chinese dragon boat races and Taiwan festival postponed due to COVID

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The annual Rhode Island Chinese Dragon Boat Races & Taiwan Day Festival in Pawtucket is being postponed for the second year because of COVID concerns, the organizers have announced.

Organizers say they plan to host the event again in 2022.

“Safety first’ is our guidance while enjoying the rivers of Rhode Island,” Blackstone Valley Tourism Council President Bob Billington said in a press release announcing the cancellation. “With COVID-19 still a factor we need to stay extra vigilant.”

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Although conditions are improving in Rhode Island, the organizers noted that the festival is held in a confined space at Festival Pier along the Pawtucket River, where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing.

The festival, normally held in September, attracts thousands of spectators and dozens of competing teams from around the Northeast, according to the organizers.

Competing with fewer paddlers in the 30- to 50-foot vessels isn’t feasible, organizers say. The bigger boats typically require 22 paddlers, while the smaller boats need 14.

Matt Robert, a race official and owner of 22Dragons boat racing club in Montreal, says, “The dragon boats used at the races in Pawtucket are just too big to move properly with the amount of paddlers when considering all current COVID-19 requirements.”

Organizers say the races and festival have showcased Asian culture to a wide audience. They look forward to resuming the event in 2022.

Jonathan Sun, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston, said, “This has become a grand event in the City of Pawtucket, attracting Rhode Islanders and enthusiastic teams from around the U.S. to participate. We remain committed as a devoted partner to support this meaningful event and to make it even more exciting for everyone.”

Louis Yip, a Rhode Island businessman and race organizer, said, “The Chinese community has enjoyed the 20 years of friendship, partnership, and stewardship that has existed with the annual Chinese Dragon Boat Races and Taiwan Day Festival and we are looking forward to an exciting race series in 2022.”

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