The inaugural Oak Ridge Dragon Boat Festival will be held from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 31, at the Oak Ridge Marina and Pavilion in Melton Lake Park.
The three Rotary clubs of Oak Ridge are launching this fundraiser for community nonprofit service organizations.
Dragon boat racing is the eighth-fastest growing sport in the world. And the races will take place on Oak Ridge’s signature rowing venue, considered one of the three best courses for regattas in the nation.
Starting at 9 a.m., 30 dragon boat teams—three from Kentucky and North Carolina—will race at least twice, with the 12 winners of two rounds racing in the third round.
The festival offers food and beverage vendors, beer garden, kids area at the pavilion with bounce houses and 15-minute martial arts lessons on the hour, two Tai Chi demonstrations, and awards ceremonies for winners of the morning Drummers Parade and the third round of dragon boat races.
The three Rotary clubs of Oak Ridge are launching this fundraiser for community nonprofit service organizations. The most generous sponsor so far is the ORNL Federal Credit Union, which has donated $2,500 for the races.
Three judges will determine the winners of the Drummers’ Parade, featuring the drummers for each team who will be wearing amazing costumes.
One celebrity judge will be Kassie Perkins, Miss Tennessee International for 2014. The other celebrity judges will be State Sen. Ken Yager, the District 12 representative in the Tennessee General Assembly, and Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan, a member of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge.
The race is free to spectators.
Officials said it’s unsafe to park along Melton Lake Drive. Instead, you are encouraged to park at Roane State Community College, Oak Ridge Campus, 701 Briarcliff Ave. You can access the large student parking lot off Laboratory Road, next to RSCC’s new building, and catch a ride in an ETHRA shuttle bus to the waterfront.
Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing LLC of Knoxville has been hired to operate the races safely and provide the dragon boats, other equipment and training. The company will provide a person to steer each boat.
“The purpose of the festival is to provide a venue for dragon boat races, sell food and drinks, and raise funds for nonprofit service organizations in the community,” said Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson, president of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge. He added that the first festivities will include speeches by the district governor of Rotary District 6780 and the presidents of the three Rotary clubs, as well as a parade featuring drummers.
The other two clubs hosting the event are the Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary and Oak Ridge Sunset Rotary clubs.
The kickoff event at 8:45 a.m. will feature four speakers: Rotary District Governor Ray Knowis (a backup judge); City Manager Mark Watson, president of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge; Austin Lance, president of the Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary Club; and Tony Jordan, president of the Oak Ridge Sunset Rotary Club.
A dragon boat is a 46-foot-long, Hong Kong-style 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 and San Francisco to Knoxville.
The goal is to turn this inaugural boat race into an annual fundraising festival that will build up the nonprofit Oak Ridge Rotary Community Fund and meet needs in the Oak Ridge community in educational, children’s, and health programs. Examples are the Children’s Museum, local science fair, Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc., literacy programs, and the Free Medical Clinic of Oak Ridge.
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] or (865) 483-9444, and and visit the http://oakridge.racedragonboats.com/ website.