First International Parade of Dragons

Organizers of this year?s Krakow Parade of Dragons can rest contented. On Saturday, their event bought thousands of city inhabitants and tourist to the streets.
The success can be measured not only by the number of dragons and people watching and participating in the Parade, but also by the smiles on the faces of the children who animated the colorful beasts or those who simply stood by watching.
At noon Saturday, Europe?s biggest marketplace, Rynek Glowny, was full of parents and their kids dressed as knights or princesses. The procession of 50 dragons made of paper, wood, and even empty milk cartons circled around the Sukiennice. Most of them were made in kindergartens.
The inspirations were varied, and sometimes exotic. Japanese and Bali dragons were present, as was a nine-headed beast inspired by the Hydra of Greek mythology.
One of the most impressive reptiles was called Smaug ? same as the one from J.R.R. Tolkien?s book, ?The Hobbit.?
The latter successfully claimed the first prize among elementary schools – one of three categories.
The kids from Trzebinia created Smaug. They were very happy even though their beast?s head was accidentally burned just before they came to the stage. ?Prince Siegfried?s Dragon? from Krakow won the kindergarten competition, while ?Brailleon? created by partially sighted children from Lublin came in first in the ?other institutions? category.    
Though the red-blue-orange dragon, animated by kids from British International School of Krakow, didn?t make it to the top spot, it was the most colorful and noisy of the competition.
The children?s work was rewarded with loud applause and third place in the third category.
All the dragons and the audience had a lot of good luck. Since dawn the weather conditions seemed risky. However, a very heavy downpour began about half an hour after the jurors? choices were declared. 
The seventh edition of the Parade of Dragons was the first to host creatures from abroad. Guests from the Czech Republic, Ireland, Portugal and Wales took part in the event. People in Prague will have a chance to see their city?s edition of the Parade on September 1.
In the evening, thousands of spectators gathered at the foot of Wawel Hill to watch dragons sailing on the Vistula River.
The show featured fireworks and laser lights.
The organizers managed to win the battle against the rain and create an impressive show, as part of the city?s 750th anniversary.
The parade was brought to life in 2000 by the Groteska Puppet Theater. It was inspired by the tale of the Wawel Dragon ? probably the best-known legend of the city.
According to medieval tales the fire-belching beast lived in the cave at the foot of Wawel Hill. The dragon?s plagued the lives of Krakow inhabitants, devouring them as well as their animals. The bravest knights tried to slay the beast, but it killed them all on sight.
The ?Smok Wawelski? was defeated not by a sword, but by a clever idea. A shoemaker?s apprentice named Krak prepared something which appeared to be a perfect meal for the dragon. It turned out to be his last one. He stuffed a sheep with sulfur and the hottest spices and left it by the mouth of the cave.
When the greedy beast gobbled the sheep up, he suddenly felt very thirsty. He started to drink water from the nearby river, but the burning in his stomach wouldn?t stop. So he drank and he drank, until he drank so much that he exploded. The clever Krak became a hero, married the king?s daughter, and later ascended to the throne.  
Today tourists may enter the dragon?s cavern with a guide and see his statue on the bank of the river. He belches fire each five minutes and is among the most often photographed objects in Krakow. As this year?s parade showed, the memories of the beast are still alive.

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