Dragon boat races to add competition to charity in Twin Beaches

by Jun 14, 2013

The festival creates a sense of community, it’s fun and it’s for an important issue.

Boats decorated with dragon heads and tails soon will be seen racing along the North Beach shore for the first Dragon Boat Festival.
“The festival is a fundraiser for End Hunger in Calvert County,” said Jaqueline Miller, director of communications for End Hunger in Calvert County. “This is a really fun way for the community to come out and have fun, but raise money for End Hunger in Calvert County.”
The event will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at the North Beach Boardwalk, she said.
The Rev. Robert Hahn of Chesapeake Church, chairman of End Hunger in Calvert County, said “a key for End Hunger” has been community involvement with the issue of hunger within the county. This fundraiser differs from others, he said, in that it directly unites the issue to the event. The festival creates a sense of community, it’s fun and it’s for an important issue, he said.
“This gets people involved,” Hahn said. “If you’re sponsoring or racing in a boat, you’re directly involved, but you can also come watch. It brings people together to realize we’re all concerned about the issue, which is hunger.”
End Hunger is a nonprofit organization that helps people create permanent solutions that help move them from dependency to self sufficiency, with a mission of ending hunger in the county, according to its website. The purpose of End Hunger, the website states, is to raise awareness and unite the community to collectively end hunger in the county.
The idea to have a dragon boat race in the county came from Brian Weiler, a relatively new Chesapeake Church staff member, who has participated in dragon boat races before, Miller said. Weiler was talking about his experience with dragon boat races “and we realized this was something we could put on” in Calvert County, Miller said.
The dragon boats will be provided by 22Dragons based out of Canada. 22Dragons also will score the teams based on the fastest time, Miller said. The length of the course is 200 meters and each race will last from one to two minutes, according to End Hunger’s website. Each team is guaranteed to race at least twice, Miller said.
Teams are made up of 19 people — 16 paddlers, one drummer and two substitutes, Miller said. The team captain is responsible for putting a team together, but individuals or small groups who do not have a full team can sign up on End Hunger’s website, www.endhungercalvert.org/dragonboat, and “we’ll get in touch with you,” she said.
As of May 29, about 20 teams have preregistered for the race, Miller said, and up to 30 teams will be accepted. She said it is $125 for individuals to enter the race and $2,000 for a team to enter, but to watch the race is free.
“This is an event the entire community can come out to,” Miller said. “There’s no charge to watch the race.”
A “family zone” will be set up for race spectators to enjoy, which will include face painting, a moon bounce and balloon animals, Miller said.
Miller said she hopes there will be several “special event cups” in the race. One special event race already taking place is a “Mayor’s Cup,” in which boats with teams from North Beach, which is hosting the event, and Chesapeake Beach will race one another, she said.
“We have this really fun rivalry happening,” Miller said.
North Beach Mayor Mark Frazer said “competition is the name of the game” in the dragon boat race and the town has “issued a challenge to Chesapeake Beach.” He said all North Beach town council members and some town staff and their family members have signed up to participate on the town’s team. Frazer said the team is “going to be dressed as pirates.”
“The Town of North Beach looks forward to winning the first Mayor’s Cup,” Frazer said. “I’ve actually picked out a place for it in the town hall.”
Hahn said the “battle” for the Mayor’s Cup is what he is looking forward to most, and the winner will be given a trophy to hold onto for one year.
Frazer said North Beach’s waterfront “lends itself to spectator events” and he believes the race, even in its first year, will be very successful.
“It’s a very worthy cause, and [End Hunger] is working very hard with the town to ensure this becomes the first of what we hope will be many annual dragon boat races,” Frazer said. “I look forward to this perhaps replacing the [Celebration of Life Gala] as the most well-attended charity event in Calvert County.”
Brothers Gerald and Fred Donovan made the decision last year to not continue the annual Celebration of Life Gala in Chesapeake Beach, a fundraiser started 30 years ago by the brothers to raise money for cancer research.
Connie O’Dell, special events coordinator for the Town of Chesapeake Beach, said the town does have a team together but “is still looking for riders.” Town council members Bob Carpenter, Jeff Krahling and Valerie Beaudin had signed up to be on the team, she said. She said anyone interested in participating on the town’s team can contact her at special-events@chesapeake-beach.md.us.
Hahn said End Hunger’s fundraising goal is $20,000 after all expenses, and “we’re pretty close … to hitting that” as of the end of May. He said he is hoping for a turnout of about 1,500 people the day of the event.
kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com