By Kayla Anderson
The Sparks Tribune
The Northern Nevada International Dragon Boat Festival is coming back to the Sparks Marina for its second year in a row today. Teams of 20 people (plus a drummer) equipped with oars, life jackets, and canoe-shaped vessels all work together to beat out other boats in this exciting team-building event.
Eighteen teams are registered for today’s event and groups from Las Vegas and the Bay Area are planning to attend. Not only does this make for a great corporate outing celebrating camaraderie and fitness, proceeds from the event also go towards supporting Immunize Nevada.
“It’s an exciting event, it takes teams about two minutes and 30 seconds to get through a heat and then they hang out at their tents and play games or enjoy activities together between the heats,” says City of Sparks Special Events Supervisor Francine Burge. The City of Sparks will have a Twister game set up at their booth as an activity to help garner additional funds between heats.
All teams participate in at least three heats and there are around 3-5 boats per heat, with the best teams advancing to the finals. The International Dragon Boat Festival hosts several events across the United States and Canada and stops in major cities including Charleston, Orlando, Chicago, Toronto, and Ottawa.
Knowing that the International Dragon Boat Festival was coming to Sparks in 2017, the year prior Burge and Immunize Nevada’s Executive Director Heidi Parker participated in the Colorado Springs event.
“I had never participated in a dragon boat race before so I had no idea what to expect, but as a newbie I can say that it’s incredibly easy to pick up. All skills, ages, abilities can paddle on a dragon boat. And we won a medal at the end which was exciting,” says Parker.
The two joined the Earth Dragons team and by the end of the event the strangers who they paddled with became friends. “It really builds that team camaraderie. For us, we didn’t know these people but by the end of the day we were taking pictures with them and hanging out,” Parker says of her fellow Earth Dragons team members.
“It’s a really great team-building experience. People aren’t necessarily the strongest paddlers individually but together they are and then the drumming keeps everyone in a rhythm,” Burge says.
The Dragon Boat Festival starts at around 9 a.m. and food trucks, vendors, and exhibits will be available for spectators and participants. The course for Sparks Marina paddlers consists of a straight line from the eastern side of the marina to the west. All registrations include one practice session with the team.
Immunize Nevada administers programs to help keep the community healthy, provides immunizations for people who don’t have solid access to healthcare, infants, and school-age kids. Immunize Nevada sets an annual goal to raise $10,000 from the dragon boat races and Pledges For Paddling Program.
“We still have lots of donations coming in from teams and anyone can donate money to support a family member or paddler,” says Parker.
“This is a great event for this area, it’s unique and highlights the Sparks Marina. This sets us apart from all of the other events happening in the area; dragon boats are the fastest growing water sport and we’re happy to be a part of that,” she adds.
For more information about the 2018 Northern Nevada International Dragon Boat Festival, visit www.gwndragonboat.com/nevada. If you want to sign up but can’t get 20 people together, then interested paddlers may join the Earth Dragons team (www.gwndragonboat.com/earthdragons). Online registration cuts off today, but interested participants can also email email@example.com to sign up.
ALSO TODAY: After watching the dragon boat races in the morning, head over to Victorian Square to watch the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West perform a free jazz concert at St. Mary’s Amphitheater at 905 Victorian Avenue. The concert will be held on August 18 at 2 p.m. and is free of charge.