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Dragon Fest returns for Year of the Dragon

Snow Tan

From afar, a bright yellow flagpole peeked out through a sea of people. Nearing the bustling crowd, chatter in English and Mandarin could be heard left and right. Various savory aromas began to overtake the area. A child passing by asked their dad, “What’s that smell?” Perhaps it was the grilled squid. Or was it the famous stinky tofu?

New Yorkers engulfed themselves in the community of Chinese culture and cuisine once again at Dragon Fest, which kicked off its season on April 6. It consists of 16 events and runs through Oct. 6.

More than 200,000 people attended the festival last season. This exceeded the expectations of Biubiu Xu, the mind behind Dragon Fest. She anticipated 10,000-15,000 people per event, but 40,000-50,000 showed up instead.

This season, at least 35 vendors will be participating and more than 100 traditional Chinese snacks will be served — some including dragon’s beard candy, lotus root sandwiches and stinky tofu, which was very popular last year. 

Kyo Pang is the founder of the Malaysian coffee shop Kopitiam and joined Dragon Fest last season after befriending Xu.

“I respect Biubiu a lot because she was able to start such a large Asian cuisine fest,” Pang said. “She was able to gather so many people together, which I think is very important and good.”

Snow Tan












Xu is the founder of Dragon Fest, an annual Chinese food festival now in its second year |

Many Flushing eateries participated in a food festival for the first time thanks to Xu. Now they can expand their business to Manhattan and be exposed to the main market.

“People never know them, and they also never know what Manhattan looks like,” Xu said. “So I think we became a bridge to help this side connect together.”

These small businesses have been relying on the Chinese community. Thus, some shops may face a language barrier.

Yifan Li is a Dragon Fest staff worker who joined the team last year. After showing her interest in participating in the festival, Li was offered to work with a sugar painting vendor for a day.

“I was helping to communicate between the customers and the cashier,” Li said. “The teacher who did the sugar painting doesn’t really know how to communicate, so that’s why I was serving as a translator.”

Peta Fairclough, an upstate New Yorker, decided to visit Dragon Fest with friends after seeing an Instagram post.

“I don’t think I have that much history with trying food from this culture,” Fairclough said. “They share that they’re excited and want to try a little bit of everything.”

Snow Tan
Snow Tan







Vendors sell traditional Chinese food, such as dragon’s beard candy, a traditional Chinese confectionery similar to cotton candy. Soup dumplings and steamed buns are also popular picks.

Dragon Fest has been in the making since 2018. 

Xu fused her marketing and organizing skills to start a cultural festival New York City has yet to see. There’s the Japanese festival, Japan Fes and the Italian festival, The Feast of San Gennaro, but there’s no Chinese food festival, which is surprising because there are nine Chinatowns in New York City.

While Xu learned everything she needed to know and prepare for this project —the logistics, getting a permit and renting space —the world was hit by the pandemic, delaying her project.

Dragon Fest finally debuted in 2022, when COVID-19 was labeled as the “Chinese virus” by former President Donald Trump — sparking and fueling hatred toward Chinese people. 

With anti-Asian hate crimes decreasing, Dragon Fest serves as a way to help people connect to Chinese culture. It’s just as the saying goes, food brings people together.

By bringing together a community to celebrate, Xu says food and culture will lead more people to learn Chinese culture and more about China.

Amongst the 16 unique events, Dragon Fest planned something special for six or seven of them. Xu hinted that they will create the first Thai festival. Outside of China, Thailand is one of the several countries home to Chinese people and Thai-Chinese mixed cuisine.

“Everyone is away from home. When you’re able to bring things from home to here,food connects people,” Pang said.

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