Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Dragon Boat Festival makes an example out of DU grad

When you’re looking for someone to serve as a role model for young people in Denver’s Asian-Pacific-American community, it’s hard to imagine a better candidate than Judge Kerry Steven Hada (JD ’88).

A Denver native whose community-service resume includes time with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Denver Kids, the Rocky Mountain Child Advocacy Program, the Japanese American Citizens League and many other nonprofits, Hada has been named honorary chair of the 2009 Colorado Dragon Boat Festival.

The annual celebration of Asian and Pacific culture runs July 25 and 26 at Sloan’s Lake Park in northwest Denver.

“I’m very humbled and honored to be considered by these folks to be honorary chair,” says Hada, 59. “Apparently they think I’m enough of a role model that they want people from all over the community to follow in my footsteps in some way.”

Hada is a U.S. District Court judge who presides over a juvenile courtroom, which might explain why he’s so driven to help kids in need. Through the Big Brother program, Hada has mentored the same “little brother” for more than 20 years.

“It’s made me a quasi-grandfather because he has a 10-year-old and a 1-year-old now,” Hada says.

Now in its ninth year, the Dragon Boat Festival has turned into one of Denver’s premier summer events. In addition to the titular races, the event features traditional and contemporary performing arts — including Taiko drumming, Bollywood dance and Chinese music — food and craft vendors, and close-up looks at various Asian and Pacific cultures. This year’s festival also has a special focus on Hawaii, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a state.

In addition to showcasing Asian and Pacific culture, the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival is also designed to showcase the state’s Asian and Pacific citizens, says Ding-Wen Hsu, the festival’s chair.

“Less than 4 percent of the population in Colorado is Asian-Pacific-Americans. It’s a very small population,” she says. “And we are very quiet, traditionally. That’s our culture.

“But in my mind, I feel Asian-Pacific-Americans are making tremendous contributions in the state and in the nation. So the goal of the festival is not only to bring our community together, to show our strength, but also to show our accomplishments.”

Having honorary chairs like Judge Hada, Hsu says, is one of the ways the festival shows those accomplishments.

“Not only is he very accomplished in his own profession, but he’s also very giving,” she says. “He doesn’t just go to work every day; he does a lot of community service work. When he was a lawyer he provided pro bono services to our community. He’s a very unselfish person and also very caring.”

For more information on the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, visit

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