June 22, 2010

Dragon Boats make their annual appearance here

The Dragon Slayers team from UW-Parkside heads out for the very first time

The power boats and sailboats that take up residence every summer at the Reef Point Marina have some new competition this week: Dragon boats.

The colorful 20-oarsmen racing sculls are zipping around the harbor, and up the mouth of the Root River, as teams begin practicing for this year's seventh annual Great Midwest Dragon Boat Festival, which will take place July 9 and 10 at Meyers Beach off of Pershing Park Drive. The festival opens with a parade along Pershing Drive on Friday, at 6:30 p.m.; races are Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Samuel Myers Park, with the best viewing from Simonsen Park on Main Street, from 14th to 16th Streets.

Forty-one teams (complete list here) -- each is comprised of 20 oarsmen, including at least 8 women, and one drummer -- are registered for this year's races, which are staged by Racine's three Rotary Clubs. Money raised -- the net was about $10,000 last year when there were 47 teams -- helps fund the clubs' scholarships and community projects.

Practice chair Gary Henseler of the Founder's Club installs one of the boat's drums

OK, they're not really Dragon Boats until the heads are installed for the actual races