The New Boats on the Bay
Move over canoes, kayaks, racing sculls and paddleboards. There’s a new boat on the Bay.
Dragon boats, a craft perfected in southern China over two thousand years ago, are racing in North Beach this weekend. The brightly painted long boats take their name from the head and tails of dragons adorning stem and stern. A team of 16 to 20 rowers power the boats, with one drummer setting the rhythm.
When the spectacular boats gather to race, excitement follows.
In North Beach, they’ll be taking to the water as the newest wave in the campaign to End Hunger in Calvert County.
“We are doing this to create community awareness around hunger issues all over Southern Maryland,” said the Rev. Robert Hahn, chair of the county-wide charity. He hopes dragon boat races will generate money as well as awareness. “This year, our goal is to net $20,000,” Hahn said.
For the inaugural races, four boats have been imported from 22Dragons in Montreal, where dragon racing is a sport with a national team. 22Dragons both sponsors a racing club and helps charities start fun and fund-raising festivals.
If this festival goes well, the races will continue every year.
“In the future, we’d like to raise over $100,000 and are looking at an annual event,” said Clif Bridegum.
Bridegum will lead one of 20 teams competing in June 22’s high-visibility races directly in front of the boardwalk. Calvert County sheriff’s department, Constellation Energy and SMECO are also competing. Rival teams — like the ones organized by Mayor Mark Frazer of North Beach and Mayor Bruce Wahl of Chesapeake Beach — will add to the excitement.
Teams are recruiting paddlers, who make a tax-deductible donation of $125 to join the fun.
In each race, four dragon boats compete down a 200-meter course in a double-elimination style (think March Madness). The pace is fast. Races last only a minute or two.
On shore, there’ll be plenty to see, food and drink to stoke the festival, plus a Kids Zone to entertain the tots.
Emceeing the festival is Calvert County’s Doug Hill, weatherman at ABC 7 News/WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.
An awards ceremony closes the race, with trophies for the team that raises the most money, plus a Grand Master Award.