Dragon Boat Day to be held at park

Posted June 17, 2010, at 11:08 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:32 a.m.

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — Mattawamkeag Wilderness Park will hold a Chinese Dragon Boat Day on Saturday in honor of a famous Chinese scholar who opposed corruption, the park managers said Thursday.

The park will offer a Chinese cooking class for $10 for adults, a story time for children, arts and crafts for all ages and a scavenger hunt along the river trail featuring interesting facts about China, said Chris Bilik-Franklin, who taught English in China for several years.

The day will offer “plenty of culture and it’s something different. Father’s Day is this weekend, so it’s a good way to spend time with the family,” Midiana Bilik-Franklin, co-manager of the park and Chris’ wife, said Thursday.

The public is invited. The Bilik-Franklins, who are in their first year as park managers, enjoy the idea of using their new job to highlight Chinese culture, she said.

“We adopted a Chinese son while we were over there, so we like to celebrate his heritage. We like to share some Chinese culture that people don’t typically know about,” Midiana Bilik-Franklin said. “They typically know about Chinese New Year, but Dragon Boat Day isn’t as well known.”

Also known as Duanwu, the boat day commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan. According to Wikipedia, he was a loyal minister serving the King of Chu during the Warring States Period in the third century B.C. in China. Known widely as a man of integrity, Qu Yuan was falsely accused of cor-ruption and protested his exile by drowning himself in a river.

The holiday celebrates the Chinese people’s spontaneous but unsuccessful attempt to search the river for him.

“We really want to get dragon boats to hold a race, but we can’t find any in Maine,” Midiana Bilik-Franklin said.

Built in 1974, the park first was leased and run by Penobscot County, then by the Friends of the Wilderness Park, a private organization, until 1996. The town has operated it since. Run as a nonprofit organization, the park draws about 250 campers annually.

The park features many outdoor activities, including fishing in the Mattawamkeag River, 15 miles of hiking trails, and several more miles of ATV trails. Of the park’s 50 camping sites, including 11 Adirondack shelters, 11 camping sites have electricity and water, and six have electricity, water and sewer.

For information on the park, visit its website, mwpark.com, or call 290-0205.

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