Dragon boats racing at Marine Stadium Park in Long Beach

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Another interesting event from Emily Thornton in the Grunion Gazette.

“Dragon boating has been around for about 2,000 years, but Long Beach resident Ligaya Pinga Jakmakjian, said she just recently discovered it.

“I lived in Long Beach almost 40 years and didn’t know this sport existed,” Jakmakjian said. “It wasn’t until the past four years I discovered this.”

Apparently, she’s not the only one.

The sport has gained popularity — about 5,000 boaters will be at the 2016 Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival — this weekend at Marine Stadium Park. The free event is celebrating its 20th year.

Jakmakjian decided to join a networking group for Asian Pacific Islanders, she said, and that led her to the Los Angeles Racing Dragons (LARD), a team in Long Beach. After her first practices, she said she was hooked.

“I realized many large companies are involved,” Jakmakjian said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is great.’”

She said she’s been in the mixed group of about 20 for almost three years.

“It’s an all-inclusive team,” Jakmakjian said. “There are no tryouts. They accept everyone. There’s a boat for competitive paddlers and a recreationals team as well.”

She said she’s a part of the recreational team and doesn’t have the stress of trying to practice all of the time or beating a certain time.

“I’m a working mom, so it allows me to have a sport to compete in,” Jakmakjian said. “And it’s a year-round team, like most across the U.S.”

Being a recreational boater, she said she practices with LARD at Mother’s Beach about two hours once a week or more, depending on the time of year.

“I’ve made a lot of great friends,” Jakmakjian said. “One of the things I like a lot about paddling is you can continue to do this sport until old age.”

Jakmakjian’s team will be among the 240 at the festival this weekend, organizer Dr. Howard Chen said. The celebration has grown a lot since he started it, he said.

“We have quite a few out-of-town teams,” Chen said. “Twenty years ago, we only had 20 or 30 teams and 600 people watching.”The races run from about 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, and about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 31. Closing ceremonies are at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Entertainment runs from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Included in the lineup are Taipei Youth Folk Sports Group 2016, Taiko Center of Los Angeles, Ohana Polynesian Dancers, Shaolin Temple Kung Fu, Magic by Minh Tran, Frankie McNellis, Damo Academy of Martial Arts, Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival dance showcase and more.

Vendors include food, accessories and other entities.

Parking is available in various locations, including Marine Stadium at 5225 Paoli Way, with various prices.

For more information, visit www.lbdragonboat.com.

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com

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