Dragon Boat Festival on Sept. 7 offers something for everyone


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – The eighth annual Mountain States Dragon Boat Festival is coming up Saturday, Sept. 7, and organizers have made some changes to enhance the festival experience for everyone – whether you’re on a paddle team or just there to watch and enjoy.

The event takes place at Winged Deer Park next to Boone Lake, with the opening ceremony set for 8 a.m. The festival is a fundraiser for the Mountain States Foundation and proceeds will help purchase a linear accelerator to treat patients at the radiation oncology center at Johnson City Medical Center (JCMC).

“We have a whole new level of excitement about this year’s event,” said Patty Bolton, corporate director of Signature Events for the Mountain States Foundation. “There are dragon boat races going on but there’s a whole lot more. We’ve added, expanded and enhanced things.

“We want to make this a true festival that everyone can enjoy, whether you’re paddling or not.”

The first race is at 9:15 a.m. and there are always teams looking to add extra paddlers. It’s not too late to donate to a team, either. For more information, visit www.mshafoundation.org/dragonboat.

Opening ceremonies will include the Science Hill High School Band, a flyover by MSHA’s Wings Air Rescue helicopter, and the Parade of the T-shirts to show off their team shirts. Festivities last until closing ceremonies at about 4 p.m.

Bolton said 42 paddle teams have registered.

“Last year’s event netted about $100,000,” she said, “and we would love to double that!”

One of the biggest changes this year is that the dragon boats will be racing downstream, from right to left – the opposite direction they’ve raced in years past. This will enable teams to go faster than ever.

Tent City, where all the paddle teams are set up, will also be moved as the whole setup for the festival is reconfigured to make everything seem intimate and to provide more lake front viewing opportunities.

Art in the Park has been expanded to feature more artisans, there will be more food vendors, Tri Cities Stand Up Paddle Board Co. will be available for exhibitions and test runs throughout the day, and during lunchtime Lazy Dog Paddle Yoga will be doing yoga on the paddle boards.

A Health Fair will be held, including discounted screenings on the HeartCoach – which was funded by money from early Dragon Boat Festivals. Funville’s Dragon Land inflatables will be available for kids to enjoy, and a cornhole toss will be set up.

From 10-11 a.m. various mascots from around the region, including Scrubs the Bear from Niswonger Children’s Hospital and Bucky from East Tennessee State University, will make an appearance. Champion Chevrolet, which sponsors the annual Spirit Gala Raffle for Mountain States Foundation, will display the cars it will be offering this year as prize options for the raffle winner.

Another new addition is a Dragon Boat Festival retail store, offering t-shirts, visors, magnets, key chains and other merchandise for sale.

People can also vote – with their donations of dollars or change – for the day’s best tent in Tent City, and for the best team T-shirt. Donation buckets will be displayed for each team, and the team that fills its bucket with the most money will win. If the same team wins both categories – Best Tent and Best T-Shirt – that team will receive free entrance into next year’s competition.

“We think it’s going to be great fun,” Bolton said, “but our main focus is not just on having a good time; it’s about making a difference in the lives of people who’ve been touched by cancer.”

For more information, visit www.mshafoundation.org/dragonboat or call 423-302-3131.


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