Last weekend Sandy Beach was taken over by a throng of boat racing enthusiasts. What type of boat they raced drew in countless spectators from all over Macon.
Fourteen teams of twenty paddlers raced on Lake Tobosofkee in the “Heart of the Dragon” Festival in Chinese style dragon boats. The forty-foot boats are designed to carry one drummer, a person to steer, and twenty paddlers and race over a short distance against one other boat.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia ran the Festival, aiming to raise funds for their organization to help young children and teens.
“It goes to put mentors in the lives of children. And then to support those matches so that they’ll last longer for greater effect for
the impact on the children,” said Dianna Glymph, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of a fifteen county area of central Georgia. This is the third annual event and fourth festival for the dragon boats. Over the past four years the fundraising has managed to amass over a hundred thousand dollars.
Those who participated in the race were asked to raise a minimum of $25 with a goal of $115. The goal amount is what it costs to recruit, screen and train one mentor. Some sponsors of the event included Geico, State Bank, Wells Fargo and Georgia Power. Several sponsors made teams to participate in the competition. The Second Wind Band, a group of Georgia Power Employees, volunteered to show off their musical talent.
The race took place last Saturday on a stunning spring day that made the conditions just right for some competitive racing.
Though there is not much of a dragon boat league blossoming in Macon, participants were more than enthused over the festival.
“This is my fifth time doing it, I’ve done it with two Mercer teams, an independent team and twice with the wellness center,” said
Philip McCreanor, Associate Professor in the Environmental Engineering Department and Director of the Engineering Honors
Program. “I wish it happened more in Macon, it’s a good time.”
Teams were given two scheduled one-hour practices to prepare to the adjustments of using a dragon boat. Mc-Creanor elaborated on what it takes to be able to compete in such a sport, “Big thing is core strength, but it’s also endurance so it’s a little different.”
Mercer students have competed in the race in the past but no team entered in this year, perhaps due to the conflicting BearStock.
The race takes on a history of tradition in dragon boat racing that dates back 2,400 years in ancient China. Nowadays it is a cross-cultural sport with events all over the world. The exciting sport has grown to become so popular that it is now the fastest growing team water sport. Even becoming a notion for corporate bonding trips.
“It’s lots of fun and activity, it’s a strong team building exercise. You really have to learn to count on the person in front of you and behind you,” said Glympth.
The Festival was not just dedicated to the boats, in the morning a Dragon Disc Golf tournament took place at Claystone Park. During the races teams who brought tents to escape the hot sun had a tent decorating contest.
According to the festival’s website, the event raised over $17,000 for the Big Brothers Big Sisters. The organization has been an essential part of middle Georgia for over 50 years. In 2011, over a thousand children were matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister.
These volunteers help create vital relationships with vulnerable children in the community.
To learn more visit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia today.
Dragon Boat Festival hits local beach