Three local Rotary clubs are launching the city’s first Dragon Boat Festival on May 17 at the Oak Ridge Marina and Pavilion in Melton Lake Park.
“The purpose of the festival is to provide a venue for dragon boat races, offer food and musical entertainment, and raise funds for a special project and nonprofit service organizations in the community,” said Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson, president of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge.
The boat racing event, launched by OARS in the Water, will celebrate Oak Ridge’s waterfront and signature rowing venue. OARS stands for the Oak Ridge Association of Rotarians. The other two clubs are the Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary and Oak Ridge Sunset Rotary clubs.
A dragon boat is a long, low boat adorned with a snarling dragonhead at the boat’s front end, as in the Chinese tradition. Dragon boat races have become popular events in many U.S. cities, ranging in size from Philadelphia to Knoxville.
This all-day Dragon Boat Festival race will be an entertaining competition among teams of 20 people each—18 paddlers, a caller, and a steerer. The teams will come from community employers and organizations, many of which are signing up to become corporate sponsors of the event.
The goal of OARS in the Water is to turn this inaugural boat race into an annual fundraising festival that will build up the Oak Ridge Rotary Community Fund, a nonprofit organization, and meet needs in the community in legacy projects for the community and in educational, children’s, and health programs.
“All proceeds from the event will stay in the Oak Ridge area,” said Tony Jordan, president of the Oak Ridge Sunset Rotary Club. “The funds will support literacy projects, science fairs, musical organizations, and local nonprofit service organizations such as the Free Medical Clinic, Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc., and Children’s Museum.”
OARS contracted with Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing LLC of Knoxville to operate the races safely and provide the dragon boats, other equipment, and training. The company has successfully managed races in Alabama, Arkansas, Montana, and Tennessee.
Event sponsorship levels are $1,000, $2,500, and $5,000. The entry fee for one dragon boat team is $750.
“This festival should be a great event that brings the community together for fun while raising funds to benefit the community,” said Austin Lance, president of the Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary Club.
The organizing committee includes members of all three Rotary clubs, and the leaders are Jim Sumner, Keith Kahl, and Leslie England. For more information, contact Leslie England at [email protected] and (865) 318-1910.