When the brightly colored boats enter the water on Saturday, it will be the first time since its inception that the annual Dragon Boat Bash is not being run by the Daybreak Rotary Club. But event organizers say the spectators shouldn't notice the difference. Although the name of the organization is new, many things have stayed the same.
Barb Michaels and Linda Donner, for example, said they have been in leadership positions since the races began 16 years ago. When Rotary decided it could not continue to sponsor the Bash, Michaels, Donner and others stepped up to create the Badger Lake Dragon Boat Association.
"We are now officially a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization," Michaels said. "We applied for the tax-exempt status and just received it officially one week ago from the IRS, so we're really pleased with that."
Many of the previous years' teams are still involved, including Da' Dragons and the breast cancer survivors group Fighting Angels Abreast. The biggest challenge has been finding volunteers.
"The important thing we lost was the infrastructure behind us," Michaels said. "From a volunteer standpoint, this is a tough year for us."
"(Rotary) brought a whole wealth of volunteers," Donner said. "They were so good at what they did, and they were so well organized; we've lost that infrastructure of volunteers and people who knew how to do things."
If you go:
What: 16th annual Dragon Boat Bash
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, featuring bands Wheelhouse and the Fishheads; 9 a.m. Saturday races
Where: Badger Lake at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park
Who: Badger Lake Dragon Boat Association
Tickets: $5 for adults on Friday; free admission Saturday. Tickets available at the door, at Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Drugstore, Wells Fargo, Northwest Bank, First American Bank or any committee member.
For more information: badgerlakedragonboating.com
Wayward Dragons are new team
One of the most enthusiastic new teams is the Wayward Dragons, said event organizer Barb Michaels.
That team's captain, Jean Rice, explained how the association made it easy for complete beginners to learn the sport.
"It will be a challenge for us anyway, because none of us know what we're doing," Rice said. "When I was at the first meeting, most of other teams said they don't know what they're doing either."
Rice said when she moved to Moorland from California 10 years ago, she'd never heard of dragon boating. After watching the Fort Dodge event for a few years, she wanted to try it but didn't know where to start.
Finally she found a number and called the association. She found that anyone could join; the association provided team coaches and opportunities to practice on Badger Lake.
"We had a really good instructor. He was patient with us. We learned a lot in just the two practices we had," she said. "I've paddled a canoe before, but they said throw away your canoe paddling days, because it's a lot different."
Getting a team together was easy when she started asking around her friends and co-workers.
"We have an eclectic group," she said. "We have them from a 98-pounder clear up to about a 200-pounder. We have men, women, the youngest is 16. I think the oldest one is 63, but she's only drumming."
Rice said she didn't think they would place well in the competition.
"We're just going out to have fun. If nothing else, we'll have the best shirts," Rice said.
Quack for the Cure
The Quack for the Cure duck race is a new fundraiser for the cancer center.
The Red Cross no longer does its Ducks Against Disaster fundraiser, so it donated the ducks to the Dragon Boat Association, said Trinity Health Foundation Development Coordinator Carol Grannon.
"You purchase as many ducks as you would like," Grannon said. "They will be floated in the lake at Kennedy Park. We have seven prizes, so we will draw seven ducks out of the lake. If your duck is drawn, you will win one of the prizes."
Prizes include a 50-inch HDTV, an iPad 2, a $100 Hy-Vee gift card and a homemade quilt. Ducks cost $5 individually or less when bought in multiples. Ducks are available for purchase on the day of the event or beforehand at Trinity Health Foundation. For more information, see trmc.org/quack-for-the-cure.aspx.
The race will take place at 7:45 p.m. Friday at Badger Lake.
Still, Michaels said everything is coming together, and new partnerships are being formed.
"Chef Michael (Hirst) is running our concessions. How cool is that? He graciously volunteered his time," Michaels said. "He will be roasting a hog on a spit."
Hirst teaches the culinary school at Iowa Central Community College.
The events will begin Friday night with children's games at 6 p.m., and local band Wheelhouse playing at 6:30 p.m.
After an introduction of teams, the Fishheads will perform, followed by the traditional Awakening of the Dragon ceremony. The Fishheads will then perform a second set, and a fireworks display will finish off the night.
Saturday the racing will begin at 9 a.m. with time trials. The races will be 300 meters on the lake; the results of the time trial will place teams into one of three or four brackets, Michaels said. Then each team will get an additional two races to determine the winner of each bracket.
A breast cancer survivor ceremony will be at 2 p.m.
Both days will feature a silent auction as a fundraiser for the Cancer Center at Trinity Regional Medical Center.
Something new will be the Quack for the Cure duck race, another cancer fundraiser, at 7:45 p.m. Friday.
Additionally, Michaels said some of the teams collect donations from their co-workers and peers which is also donated to the cancer center. The team which brings in the most is recognized at the event with a plaque.
Since the dragon boaters teamed up with the Cancer Center, "I believe we've contributed over $45,000," she said.
Michaels said there are 20 dragon boat teams this year - an exciting number.
"We have more teams than we've had in a number of years," she said. "The community has overwhelmingly supported us in cash contributions for this event, and in teams."
This year's event will be on the same day as the Blues Under the Trees festival, which begins at 1 p.m. Saturday. Though she said it wouldn't happen again next year, Michaels didn't see this as a bad thing.
"I think people can benefit from both," she said. "We are going to advertise for Blues Under the Trees in our team captain packets. So we're working together to help both groups."
"A lot of the out-of-town teams, when they get done they don't leave," Donner said. "This gives them something to do before they go home, and they can see more of Fort Dodge."