Being a river city is just one of the many reasons Paducah has so many creative ways to celebrate. Of late, rowing so-called “dragon” boats up and down the river each fall has been added to the mix. As a River Discovery Center fundraiser, this new-to-Paducah event is making a colorful entry into Paducah’s annual riverfront gatherings.
The Dragon Boat is deeply embedded in China’s “dragon” culture. The origin of dragon boat racing dates back over 2000 years ago to the Chinese legend of Qu Yuan, a 4th century statesman, poet, and advisor to the king who was exiled from the ancient state of Chu. And for the third year in a row, the River Discovery Center is bringing dragon boat racing to Paducah’s riverfront..
“We’re excited to host our third Dragon Boat Festival on September 20,” said Julie Harris, Executive Director of the River Discovery Center. “This event has seen great success over the past two years. In 2013, the festival grew from 26 to 32 teams competing for the coveted Grand Trophy. The 2013 festival drew over 7,000 people to the riverfront and raised over $90,000, which all benefitted the education programs of the Center. The festival’s success has enabled the center to expand its programming, which was our goal all along.”
22 Dragons, the event producer from Montreal, Canada, has made the 23-hour trek to Paducah each year to provide all of the dragon boats, equipment, and professional steersmen to run the races. The dragon boat teams attend practices during the week leading up to race day, and are made up of 16 paddlers and a drummer, who keeps the paddlers in sync. On race day, teams also set up and decorate their own tents along the riverfront. Along with team tents, a wide variety of local food vendors are set up at the event and available all day with a vast array of delicious food options for spectators and participants to choose from. Event organizers hope to add a children’s area with inflatables this year.
The event has been praised for its ability to bring coworkers, family, and friends together for a fun and unique kind of team-building experience. “The actual racing is fun, and left us looking forward to this year,” said Rob Caturano of the Orthopaedic Institute. “But, even more important is the relational aspects of the day. It’s always a good idea to get away from the office and compete together, have fun, and support a worthy cause.”
For more information about the festival call 270-575-9958 or go to riverdiscoverycenter.org.