Goodwill's dragon boat festival celebrates Chinese culture

Standing near a tent on the banks of Lake Olmstead on Saturday, 11-year-old Kenyatta Barnes held up a sheet of paper with three Japanese characters drawn in calligraphy.

On her arm was a green band she had woven together on “dragon looms,” which she said was her favorite activity at Goodwill’s annual dragon boat races and festival.

On the lake behind her, two teams in Chinese dragon boats rowed with all their might to be the first across the finish line.

It was Kenyatta’s first visit to the dragon boat races, which benefit Good­will’s Helms College.

The festival, now in its third year, celebrates Chinese culture with dragon dances, authentic Chi­nese food and music.

Last year’s event brought in $45,000, which was used to finish Phase II of the Goodwill campus, said Jim Stiff, the president of Goodwill Industries of the CSRA.

“This year it will be used for general purposes, to fund scholarships,” he said.

Event Chairman Ray Rufo said turnout has increased every year. This year, a children’s area was added with activities such as calligraphy, origami boats and face painting.

“The event is supposed to be family oriented. If we can keep the kids occupied and interested, we’ll get the families,” he said.

Rufo, a member of the Chinese Con­solidated Benevolent Asso­cia­tion, said the event raises awareness of Chinese culture, even among those of Chinese heritage.

“Most of the people in my group are now third-, fourth- and fifth-generation people,” he said. “We know nothing about Chinese culture. We have to rely on first-generation people who were born in China to feed us all these things.”

Rufo said he hopes the creation of the Con­fucius Institute at Georgia Re­gents University will help infuse new ideas into the festival next year.

Erica Burns said she appreciated the opportunity to learn about Chinese culture through the festival. She said she tries to attend many of the arts and cultural festivals around town and wishes there were more.

“It’s nice to know about your culture, but it’s even nicer to learn about someone else’s culture,” she said.

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