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Dragons on the Maumee

Boat festival, races raise funds for Partners in Education

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    Boats race during the Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival near International Park in Toledo last year.

    The Blade/Lori King
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Boats race during the Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival near International Park in Toledo last year.

The Blade/Lori King
Enlarge | Buy This Image

For the 10th year in a row, dragons will flock to Toledo this Saturday and seize the Maumee River downtown for a full day of fierce competition and roaring fun.

This year the Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival brings 45 teams to race the colorful 40-foot beasts 500 meters down the Maumee River for victory and the opportunity to raise money for Partners in Education. The nonprofit organization creates partnerships between area schools and northwest Ohio businesses, organizations, and government agencies.

Food vendors, crafts, games, and exhibits will be set up at International Park, offering guests a view of the races' finish line at the park's lagoon.

Although inspired by Chinese tradition and culture, the event is a community initiative for all area residents, said Yueh-Ting Lee, vice president of the Chinese Association of Greater Toledo.

"[The festival] is co-organized by different partners; Partners in Education, different business and government agencies, and the Chinese Association of Greater Toledo, so it's a community engagement," Lee said. "The festival history goes back... almost a couple thousand years. It's celebrated in China, North America, Asia... so the dragon boat [festival] brings harmony and engagement among different people."

Teams of 25, comprised of 20 paddlers, a steersman, a drummer, and three available alternates, had to raise a minimum of $2,000 to enter the race, said Eileen Kerner, executive director for the nonprofit Partners in Education. She said she expects this year's festival to bring in more than $115,000. Money raised will be used to benefit area schools.

Taking place alongside the races, the Chinese Association of Greater Toledo will put on several performances of Chinese culture, and guests can partake in Chinese crafts as well as games and food, Kerner said.

Performances will include martial arts such as tai chi, broadsword demonstrations, and traditional song and dance, Lee said. There will also be several booths and tables where festival-goers can learn to write in Chinese, buy Chinese gifts, or view Chinese art.

Sponsored again by BP-Husky Refining in Oregon, dragon boat races begin at 8 a.m. with the finals beginning at 1:30 or 1:45 p.m., depending on the weather, Kerner said.

St. John's Jesuit High School has held the winning title for the past four years and Kerner said she expects some tough competition this year.

"We wish them all luck," she said. "We do it for fun and for the fund-raiser, but it's do-or-die for some people."

The Dragon Boat Festival opens at 8 a.m. for the first round of races with the children's area opening at 10 a.m. in International Park.

Contact Ashley Sepanski at: asepanski@theblade.com or 419-724-6082.

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