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Fort Wayne Dragon Boat Races return for the 4th year on Saturday, June 23rd!

02/21/2018  |  BY rfw

Once again, Riverfront Fort Wayne will host the Fort Wayne Dragon Boat Races—now in their fourth year—and this promises to be the biggest, baddest, loudest, fastest year yet.

What is dragon boat racing, you ask? It is a sport that hails from China; traditionally, it was practiced as a war exercise. Nowadays, it is a nail-biting, adrenaline pumping recreational sport which emphasizes team work and rhythm over sheer strength or athleticism. This enables paddlers of all walks of life to quickly learn and enjoy the sport. In fact, the community that has most enthusiastically embraced dragon boat racing is cancer survivors.

Each colorful boat is 46’ long and weighs about 600 pounds; each boat also has a dragon head and tail attached. In the back of the boat is the steersman (staffed by professionals, for our races), then seated in ten rows of two are the twenty paddlers, and precariously perched in the front is the drummer, whose job is to keep the beat for the paddlers and perhaps provide some entertainment. Races are between 200 and 2000 meters and can last up to ten minutes, though here in Fort Wayne we keep our races short, and the fastest teams complete the course in about one minute. We race down the beautiful St. Marys River in the heart of downtown and all activities take place in Headwaters West.

This year’s event will begin with the traditional practice of ‘Awakening the Dragon’ where the dragon’s eyes are dotted and a performance by the Fort Wayne Chinese Families and Friends cultural heritage group. Then, the races commence, each team racing twice before the top ten teams compete in the final round. Between races teams can relax in Athlete’s Village, grab a bite to eat from a food vendor, and take little ones to the children’s area which is filled with free games, bounce activities, and more.

Adding to the fun this year will the Drummer’s Parade, Steersman Auction, Team Voting, secondary competitive activities for teams, and even more activities for families, including a giant foam party bubble machine. Teams will also have more access this year to pre-race practices both on and off the water.

All activities at this event are open to the public and totally FREE! For anyone looking to compete, a team of 20 paddlers and 1 drummer should be assembled; the team fee is $2,100 but if you sign up between March 1 and May 1, you’ll receive $100 off the team fee. Regular registration runs from May 2-June 1. Any person wishing to compete or form a team should contact Riverfront Program and Events Manager Megan Butler at megan.butler@cityoffortwayne.org This event is rain or shine and is sponsored by Parkview Health, Lincoln Financial, ABC21 WPTA, Majic 95.1, Riverfront Fort Wayne, and Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation.


Megan Butler has a long history of promoting and planning events for downtown Fort Wayne. She is currently the Program and Event Planning Manager for the Riverfront Fort Wayne. Previously, she worked as the Adult Programming and Volunteer Coordinator at the Botanical Conservatory, Downtown Improvement District’s Event Manager, and Visitor Services Specialist at Visit Fort Wayne. Butler also serves on the boards of Friends of the Rivers, Northeast Indiana Water Trails, Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, on the advisory board for Purdue Fort Wayne’s College of Arts and Sciences, and volunteers on the finance team for United Way.


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