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Dragon Boat Festival makes splash Saturday


Two boats of paddlers compete in the 2011 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River.

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It's the Year of the Water Dragon -- a year noted for generosity and good will, virtue and fulfillment.

And there is no better way to celebrate the Year of the Water Dragon than to ride one.

Paddlers from various corporate, youth and community organizations will paddle the waters of the Maumee River in boats decorated like dragons in a friendly competition Saturday at the 11th Annual Dragon Boat Festival.

This year's festival, which is free and open to the public, will take place at International Park in downtown Toledo. It features 34 teams, including four new teams -- Diversified Insurance, Friends of the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the Toledo Symphony, and Toledo Refining.

Each team consists of 20 paddlers, a steersman, and a drummer, who will give their all to cover 500 meters in the 40-foot-long, 700-pound boats. The Hong Kong-style boats are modeled after the ancient Chinese design, complete with dragon's head and tail.

The race promotes several positive behaviors, such as team building and physical fitness, said Becky Spencer, executive director of Partners in Education of Toledo, which hosts the event with the Chinese Association of Greater Toledo.

Teams had to raise $2,000 to participate. Proceeds will benefit Partners in Education's 5,000 Readers and Tutors initiative, a reading and tutoring mentor program for students in Toledo Public Schools. Funds will also benefit the College Coach program, which partners students and their families with coaches who will work with students from fifth grade through their sophomore year of college. The coaches ensure students are academically, financially, and emotionally prepared for postsecondary education.

"The day is a lot of fun for everyone involved," Ms. Spencer said. "But at the end of the day, it's about raising money to support the students."

Not all the action will be in the water. On land, there will be samples of Asian cuisine, colorful arts and crafts, and cultural performances which include martial arts demonstrations, theatrical performances, and much more. There will be a children's tent with arts and crafts, inflatables and other activities.

"It's not just for paddlers," Ms. Spencer said. "It's a real family event."

Races will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. An opening ceremony event will be held at 7:45 a.m. and features a traditional ritual.

"It's a tradition from the ancient Chinese Dragon Boat races," Ms. Spencer said of the ritual. "It's the awakening of the dragon."

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: or 419-724-6133.

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