Through the years, Dragon Boating has been used for various religious water rituals and cultural celebrations. In the 1970’s, the Hong Kong Tourist Association brought back traditional Dragon Boat Races, and in 1991 the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) was formed. Today Dragon Boat Racing is an official team sport full of tradition and culture with over 50 million dragon boaters spanning the world!


Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival History


The Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival made its debut in the fall of 2018 at North Park Lake and is held annually. This community event was created to celebrate the sport of dragon boat racing and to support Breast Cancer Survivors in the Greater Pittsburgh area and to fulfill the mission of Pittsburgh Hearts of Steel Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team.*

Past festivals have had a great deal of local media attention and in 2021, we even had a special visit from Good Morning America, here to capture footage of one of our visiting teams. Hundreds of spectators have experienced the thrill of dragon boat racing each year watching the competing teams, with many races ending in a photo finish! Entertainment and food trucks add to the festive atmosphere.

At this year’s festival, community, sports and youth teams as well as Breast Cancer Survivor teams will paddle and race for medals and awards. Anyone can learn how to paddle a dragon boat and form a team. Interested individuals can form their own dragon boat team by gathering 20-24 of their friends, family, and co-workers.

* Pittsburgh Hearts of Steel (HOS) is a breast cancer survivor dragon boat team based at Three Rivers Rowing Association (TRRA) in Pittsburgh, PA. All of our members are breast cancer survivors who share a desire to be physically active, to support each other in our journey with breast cancer, and to encourage others living with cancer to lead full and active lives. TRRA (EIN 25-1544798) is classified as a public charity and is exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All donations to Hearts of Steel are fully tax-deductible under section 170 of the Code.

Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival


Rich in tradition and Chinese culture, Dragon Boating dates as far back as 2,500 years ago. Legend says that dragon boating was conceived when Qu Yuan, a great poet, was exiled by the King and in great hopelessness Qu Yuan then committed suicide on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The community was deeply saddened by his death and paddled out in search of his body; hitting the water with their paddles and beating drums. Thus tradition was formed by creating dragon boat races in his memory. Although there are varying stories embedded within the many regions of China; each legend carries the same significant Chinese cultural themes of virtue, spirit, loyalty, and honor.

With the Dragon having great importance within the Chinese culture, the boat is very symbolic. In China, a Dragon represents strength and has encouraging powers, especially over water. Traditionally, each boat has an ornately carved dragon’s head at the bow and a tail for the stern. The hull is painted with dragon scales. Dragon boat paddlers not only have strength and endurance, but have exquisite teamwork and harmony.

Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival


Create a Team

The 2024 Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival will offer a day of great fun and team-building for novice or intermediate community teams, as well as an opportunity for competitive sport teams to compete in an ERDBA qualifying event.

Become a Sponsor

Get exposure to hundreds of event participants and spectators of all ages and help raise money for Breast Cancer Survivors in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.

Be a Spectator (FREE)

We encourage the local community to join us for a fun-filled day of dragon boat racing and entertainment in support of Breast Cancer Awareness.

Vendors Are Welcome

Whether you’re an organization, food vendor or independent business, we encourage vendors to participate so they can help build their brand while supporting the event.

Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival


Your team should arrive at North Park at least 90 minutes prior to your first race to allow time to park and get to the festival site. You will also want time to set up your site/tent as a gathering place for your team.

Your team captain should check-in your team at the Registration Tent. We will double-check that all waivers are in order, and the team captain will receive enough wrist bands for each member on their team who has turned in a signed waiver. All paddlers must wear a wristband, so we know who belongs in the boats. Captains with last-minute roster changes can make them at the Registration Tent during check-in.

Your team will race in two heats. The average times of those heats will determine where you will be placed in the Finals; also dependent on which Division your team is racing in.

Divisions: Community (mixed or women); Sports; Youth (12-21); and Breast Cancer Survivors. Additional divisions may be added depending on the teams that register.

See detailed information in the Captains Package.



The Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival is excited to announce that 22Dragons, one of North America’s most experienced dragon boat event organizers, will be returning in 2024 to produce our dragon boat festival. They provide all the boats, paddles, life jackets, finish line equipment and an experienced crew that make the festival a successful event for everyone.

Their expert steers can assist teams with advice on how to win their races!

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