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SRP engineer Eric Tang reflects on pandemic’s impact on Arizona dragon boat racing

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and we’re sharing stories about SRP employees, like Eric Tang, who make unique contributions to our community.

As an SRP engineer who has dedicated his career to delivering power and water to the Valley, Eric Tang is also one of the founders of the Arizona Dragon Boat Festival .

Tang, a 21-year veteran of SRP and current Manager of Transmission System Planning, helped launch the annual festival in 2004. Since then, he has served in many capacities, including as the festival’s director — a role that has helped him hone useful skills for his position at SRP.

“I’ve learned to keep a calm mind, that things will always go wrong, but there’s always a workaround or a fix,” Tang said.

An ancient sport made modern in the desert

Dragon boating is an ancient sport that began in China. Today, festivities around the world include races, music and food. Dragon boat races at the Arizona festival typically include about 80 heats of six teams competing on Tempe Town Lake .

“Each boat carries 20 paddlers, with room for a drummer in the front to set the cadence and a steersperson in the back to keep everyone on course,” Tang said.

SRP is a past sponsor of the event, which ranks as one of the United States’ largest.

A massive shift during COVID-19

Sadly, the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of both the 2020 and 2021 Arizona Dragon Boat Festivals. On top of the event’s cancellation, year-round activities are paused for now too.

“The dragon boating community is tight-knit, and teams are considered second families, not just locally, but throughout the world,” he said. “And so that was a big loss for some who really look forward to the festival as a chance to catch up with other local and out-of-town teams.”

He continued, “Plus, revenue from the festival is used to support and promote the sport of dragon boating through donations or other resources made available to all teams and members. Without that revenue, we haven’t been able to provide as much support as we would normally like to do.”

But, Tang emphasized, it will come back.

Planning for the future

“The 17th Annual Dragon Boat Festival will be back on March 26 and 27, 2022,” he said. “While it has been challenging to financially survive the pandemic, we have a very strong membership base that is looking to get back into the sport and is always willing to help out whenever needed.”

Tang added that he’ll be organizing an SRP corporate team for the festivities, assuming it is safe to do so.

“When things start opening back up and we can resume year-round activities safely, we’ll have that strong dragon boating community’s support to help with bringing back the festival.”

A return to the water and to racing — that’s something we can all look forward to.

Invest in yourself and your community

The spirit of service is strong at SRP, where employees are encouraged to continually learn, grow and contribute to their communities. You can join Eric and many other exceptional employees by applying at SRP today.

1 thought on “SRP engineer Eric Tang reflects on pandemic’s impact on Arizona dragon boat racing”

  1. Maureen Carroll

    It is inspiring that the Annual Dragon Boat Festival has existed for 16 years and to see that a date for 2022 has been set! Keeping tradition alive is so important.

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