The grassy, lakeside venue at Winged Deer Park near Boone Lake was transformed Saturday into a festival where racing, recreation and relaxation were all found.
The colors of T-shirts, tents and even temporary hair dye, helped to distinguish the 37 teams signed up to compete in the 7th Annual Mountain States Dragon Boat Festival, and according to Patty Bolton, corporate director of signature events for Mountain States Health Foundation, each one brought their A game.
“The teams this year are faster than we’ve ever had, so the competition is really high,” Bolton said. “Our ... hard work has paid off it looks like. Lots of smiles out here. Everybody’s having a good time. Awareness for radiation oncology is being raised, as well as a lot of dollars, so we’re excited.”
Bolton said the 250-meter race has three boats in each heat. A total of 20 paddlers and one drummer man each of the dragon boats, as teams paddle as fast and as synchronized as possible through the water.
Lisa Jones, paddling with the Mahoney’s Outfitters team, said the actual race, which is usually just under a minute, is really a workout. Waiting patiently to paddle again, she said she was proud of her team’s first effort on the water.
“I think our first heat we were in sync, we were strong. I think everybody’s having a blast and that’s, of course, what’s important,” Jones said. “Basically, you’re on the water, you’re with your friends, there’s good food. It’s just a lot of good fellowship.”
Jayme Gregory, a registered nurse with Niswonger Children’s Hospital, was relaxing and playing some games with friends as her team, Pediatric Paddlers, waited for their next heat.
“We’re beating the time with some cornhole and hanging out and socializing,” she said. “I’m having a great time.”
Gregory said the team’s first heat went well, scoring them a second-place run, which she said was better than the previous times the team has competed in the festival.
“The first heat went really well,” she said. “I think this year was easier. We were more prepared. Each year you do it, it gets a little bit easier.”
Bolton said the atmosphere and the look of the event would remind visitors of a movie set with all of the tents, food vendors and people scattered near the water. She said around 3 p.m., though, a storm blew through the venue, knocking down many of the tents and chairs, and forcing the final runs of the Dragon Boat competition to take place earlier than expected.
The overall winner and Dragon Boat Champion team was Nuclear Propulsion, with Nuclear Fuel Services. Other winners of the Dragon Boat challenges included, The Dragon Hearts of Quillen College of Medicine, AXIS II team from Woodridge Medical, MDRowers of Mountain States infection prevention department, VAEA-Veterans Association Employee Association and Olsen’s Martial Arts.
Cash Me If You Can, a team with Mountain States Health Alliance, raised the most money, totaling $20,625.
Bolton said she encourages everyone in the community to keep next year’s competition in mind.
“It’s just like nothing else. It’s such a great little jewel that everybody needs to come take part in,” she said. “It’s not too early to be thinking about next year. Come in as a vendor, as a sponsor, start thinking about your team. It’s time to start planning for 2013.”
For information on the foundation and the Dragon Boat Festival, call the Mountain States Foundation at 302-3131.