To the Editor:
What happens when three Rotary clubs in an East Tennessee city work together? In Oak Ridge, a three-club collaboration over the past year culminated in a highly successful inaugural Oak Ridge Dragon Boat Race Festival. The exciting event was launched on Saturday, May 31, at the Oak Ridge Marina off Melton Lake Drive—one of the three best rowing venues in the United States.
The leadership of the event started with Mark Watson, Oak Ridge city manager and president of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge. He met frequently with the presidents of the Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary and Oak Ridge Sunset Rotary clubs, and they persuaded their club members to serve on the organizing committee and as volunteers at the festival. Key Rotarians who made the event successful were Leslie England, Keith Kahl, Jim Sumner, and Oak Ridge City Councilman Chuck Hope (who was in charge of logistics and served as a liaison between the Rotary clubs and the city of Oak Ridge).
By the third week in May, 30 teams, including one from Chattanooga and three from Kentucky and North Carolina, had registered. Three teams came from the Oak Ridge School System and three from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing LLC of Knoxville supplied the boats, paddles, life jackets, boat steering personnel, and trainers. Penny Behling, president of the company, used a company website to promote the Oak Ridge festival.
Among the people present at the opening ceremonies was District Governor Ray Knowis. Past District Governor Karen Wentz and her husband Ron Appuhn were also there.
The judges for the drummers’ parade were Tennessee Sen. Ken Yager, Miss Tennessee International (Kassie Perkins of Sunbright), and Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan, a member of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge.
Each boat has a drummer who beats the drum in a steady rhythm to ensure that the paddlers work in synchrony.
Through dragon boat team fees, vendor fees, tent fees, beer garden sales, and sponsorships, the three clubs expect to raise thousands of dollars (after paying expenses) to bolster their funds that support nonprofit service organizations in Oak Ridge. Examples include the Children’s Museum, local science fair, Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc., literacy projects, and the Free Medical Clinic of Oak Ridge.
The festival received excellent coverage from the Oak Ridge and Knoxville media, WBIR-TV in Knoxville, and China Central Television (CCTV), which broadcasts to more than one billion people in Beijing and its surroundings.
Here is the final round ranking and times (in minutes, seconds, and fractions of a second) of the exciting, often very close races in which three boat teams competed at a time:
- Charlotte Dragon Boat Association (CDBA) Surge—1:19.029
- ORNL/XCEL Engineering Atom Splashers—1:19.479
- TVA Green Power Switch—1:21.247
- Oak Ridge National Lab Salsa Picante—1:21.431
- Betsy Coleman Realty/Cowperwood “Sexy and I Row It” team—1:21.464
- Edward Jones EDvisors—1:21.481
- Chattanooga Dragon Boat Club “Shut Up and Paddle” team—1:22.298
- Parkway Cardiology Paddle Attack—1:22.999
- Stroke of Luck Team—1:23.640
- Jefferson Middle School SEA Eagles—1:24.801
- Oak Ridge National Lab Big Bang Rowers—1:24.984
- Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary Rowers—1:28.438
Adult Division Champion: CDBA Surge
ORNL Division Champion: ORNL/XCEL Atom Splashers
Oak Ridge Schools Division Champion: JMS SEA Eagles
Women’s Division Champion: Healing Dragons of Lake James
The team I most admired was the all-woman team of breast cancer survivors known as the Kentucky Thoroughbreasts!
Rotary Club of Oak Ridge