Penny Behling wants you to have fun on Saturday, May 30, at the Oak Ridge waterfront, and help raise funds to support the good works of the people of Oak Ridge.
She wants you to be safe as a member of a dragon boat team, and she is sure that you will meet new people, make new friends, build self-confidence, and contribute to your team and the community’s well-being.
Behling is the chief executive officer and owner (with her husband Chris) of Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing LLC of Knoxville. She will be the race director of the second annual Oak Ridge Dragon Boat Festival, which is again being launched by the three Rotary clubs of Oak Ridge.
Dynamic was the race director of last year’s inaugural festival, which attracted an estimated 5,000 people and a media team that broadcast the Oak Ridge races to a television network in Beijing, China, which has an audience of a billion people.
She expects to see the Oak Ridge festival grow, just as Dynamic has grown as a director of dragon boat races.
“In the past 10 years, we’ve gone from managing one dragon boat race a year to managing at least 24 races every year,” Behling said. Dynamic will be managing races in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Tennessee.
As for the potential of Oak Ridge’s signature rowing venue as a site for a highly successful dragon boat festival, Behling said in an interview by email: “The waterfront at Oak Ridge is probably the best venue on our calendar. Calm water with little to no current is ideal for dragon boat racing. Oak Ridge has the potential to be one of the largest, if not the largest, race in East Tennessee.”
A native of Rockwood who grew up on Rockwood Mountain, Behling has a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Lincoln Memorial University, worked as a newspaper reporter at The Mountain Press in Sevierville, and served as a fundraiser for the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. Her favorite sports are dragon boat racing, standup paddleboarding, basketball, and tennis.
Dynamic has become “a nationally recognized expert in the dragon boat event management market.” How did this happen?
“We produced the U.S. National Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Chattanooga in 2010, bringing dragon boat club teams from all over the U.S. to compete,” Behling said. “Our clientele has tripled since that time. We are well-known among dragon boat teams and several nonprofit organizations for running well-organized events that raise nearly $1 million annually for various clients.”
As CEO, Behling said, “In a nutshell, my job is to ensure everything is running like a fine-tuned engine.” Her job includes securing clients, executing agreements, managing subcontractors, officiating races, steering dragon boats, and building content and updating webpages for customers.
The origin of the Oak Ridge Dragon Boat Festival can be traced back to a phone call to Behling from Leslie England, a new member of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge.
If you wish to join, form, sponsor, and register a dragon boat team, Behling wants you to know the rules, which are also available on the website she built for Oak Ridge: http://oakridge.racedragonboats.com.
All dragon boats and equipment (including paddles) will be provided. Each paddler must wear the U.S. Coast Guard–approved personal flotation device that is provided (or your own).
Each team will have a trained dragon boat steerer and coach provided by Dynamic.
Every paddler must sign a waiver.
You must be at least 15 years old and your boat should have 20 paddlers and a drummer to be competitive, but you may race with a minimum of 16 people.
You must have eight female paddlers (the drummer does not count).
The drummer must actively beat the drum during the race.
The race heats will be a straight course of approximately 300 meters (three football fields). Three boats race at a time in lanes marked by racing buoys.
The Oak Ridge festival will start Friday evening, May 29, with a beer garden and entertainment for racing teams, visitors and volunteers. The dragon boat races will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 30, at Melton Lake Park.
So far, 28 teams have signed up to race, including the defending champion from Charlotte, North Carolina. Last year, 30 teams competed in dragon boat races here. Two teams from Oak Ridge National Laboratory finished in the top five. Thom Mason, ORNL director, will be the honorary grand marshal for the Drummers Parade on race day.
The festival is attracting funds from sponsors, sponsors of racing teams, and other individuals to support Second Harvest (which provides meals to Oak Ridge food pantries), the Free Medical Clinic of Oak Ridge, literacy and science fair projects, musical organizations, and nonprofit service organizations for children.
Event sponsorship levels are $1,000, $2,500, and $5,000. Sponsors will be mentioned in publicity and on the website. Akins Public Strategies is the first sponsor for the festival.
The entry fee for one dragon boat team is $850. Smaller donations are also welcome. Some sponsors do not sponsor boat teams and others sponsor more than one team.
“Two small businesses, two churches, or two nonprofit organizations might want to be cosponsors and register a team for only $425 each,” suggested City Manager Mark Watson, immediate past president of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge and chair of the Dragon Boat Festival steering committee.
Food and beverage vendors and a Kids Area will be available on the peninsula on race day.