After two years of pandemic delays, the colorful Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival returned on Saturday, bringing Chinese culture and tradition to the lakefront.
The Milwaukee Chinese Community Center organized the festival, alongside co-sponsors the Wisconsin Chapter of OCA and the National Association of Asian American Professionals.
The main event — racing of Chinese dragon boats off Lake Shore Park.
"It was awesome. I just really, really loved it," said Jennifer Achuck, a first rower with ElevAsian's Boat Team. "[My job was to] keep rhythm. Watch that drum and just keep on going with it. Cause everyone is watching my row."
Her daughter, MJ Wong Engel, was the drummer.
“It’s a really important role that I hadn’t really known about until today. But today, when my team asked me to be the drummer, I had to say yes," said Wong Engel.
The ElevAsian team won silver in it's grouping. This year, 44 boats raced, down from 54 in 2019, the last year before the pandemic. Each team had 20 paddlers (with alternates allowed) and a drummer.
“It’s been beyond our wildest expectations. Again, after coming back from the pandemic — we really didn’t expect such a great turnout," said Roger Zhong, the event MC.
Alongside the racing, there was traditional dance, folk music and martial arts. There was also plenty of Chinese food and a beer garden.
"I think it is really good after what’s happened after the past few years. It’s been hard for the Chinese community to rally," said Victoria Parsons, a member of ElevAsian's team.
"This is a really positive thing to rally about, which is something that we need. Just seeing people share food, and do some races, and see people see some positive aspects about Chinese culture — a really wholesome experience."
Zhong said it's an experience that shows all communities can thrive and grow in Brew City.
“We have been very happy to be part of this great city of champions. So, go Milwaukee," said Zhong.