History of IDBC

History of the Ithaca Dragon Boat Club

In 2004, two brand-new wooden dragon boats, one painted with blue scales, one with red, arrived in Ithaca after their long journey from Dalian, China. The deep, clear waters of Ithaca’s Cayuga lake would be the new home for these forty-foot long giants. Children in Ithaca were soon petting the heads of the dragon boats as they moored at their lakeside dock. Community members were welcomed onto the boats, experiencing the exhilaration of twenty people paddling together, in cooperative unity. From land, families cheered the festive sight of the dragon boats passing the shores of the lake.

The Ithaca Asian American Association’s dream to bring together the diverse communities in Ithaca in celebration of the rich Asian tradition of dragon boating had come true. The Ithaca Asian American Association (IAAA), a local nonprofit civic organization, continues to sponsor both the Ithaca Dragon Boat Club and the Fingerlakes International Dragon Boat Festival.

The Ithaca Dragon Boat Club encourages diversity among its members and welcomes new members of all races, ages, socioeconomic status, and athletic ability. The IDBC’s recreational paddlers enjoy relaxed exercise and camaraderie, with ample time to bird watch while paddling the scenic waters of the lake. The IDBC’s competitive paddlers enjoy a tougher workout and travel to compete out-of-state in regional dragon boat festivals; this traveling team is named the Gorges Dragons in tribute to Ithaca’s famous waterfalls and gorges. The IAAA and members of the IDBC cooperate to host dragon boat team-building programs for youth and community organizations.

Perhaps the most popular legend of the beginnings of dragon boating is from over 2000 years ago, when the famed Chinese poet and statesman, Qu Yuan, fell into a river. The members of his community came to Qu Yuan’s aid, splashing the water and drumming madly to scare away the fish from eating his flesh. From this origin, dragon boating and dragon boat racing has now become a truly global phenomenon. Ithaca’s Dragon Boat Club is proud to be part of the continuing tradition.

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