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Published: Sunday, 7/27/2008

Dragon Boat race propels education partnership effort

BY MEREDITH BYERS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The seventh annual Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival drew more than 1,200 paddlers on 44 teams who were
raising money for Partners in Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes partnerships between schools and
other groups. Yesterday s event was presented by BP in International Park.
<BR>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red> VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&amp;Dato=20080727&amp;Kategori=ART03&amp;Lopenr=314549932&amp;Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b> 2008 Dragon Boat Festival </b></a> photo gallery. The seventh annual Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival drew more than 1,200 paddlers on 44 teams who were raising money for Partners in Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes partnerships between schools and other groups. Yesterday s event was presented by BP in International Park. <BR> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red> VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&amp;Dato=20080727&amp;Kategori=ART03&amp;Lopenr=314549932&amp;Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b> 2008 Dragon Boat Festival </b></a> photo gallery.
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Kraft Foods Inc. propelled itself with Flour Power.

Toledo Fire Department had Blazing Paddles.

And Brooks Insurance Agency dubbed its paddlers the Coverage Crew.

They were among 44 teams from a variety of area organizations in the seventh annual Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival in International Park in East Toledo yesterday.

The festival, which was presented by BP, included more than 1,200 paddlers.

Organizations paid a minimum of $2,000 to enter the race. All proceeds benefit Partners in Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes partnerships between area schools and businesses, government agencies, churches, and other groups.

The dragon boats, which are about 40 feet long, were manned by teams consisting of 20 paddlers, a person who steers the boat, and a drummer beating a cadence to set the pace.

Paddlers had to be at least 16 years old, and each team had to have a minimum of eight female paddlers.

Brian Niedzwiecki, vice president of Stautzenberger College and a member of Partners in Education s board, said dragon boating racing is ideal for the fund-raiser.

People don t need to have athletic ability. It s about team work. The team that works together is the one that s going to win, he said.

HCR Manor- Care Inc. employees Chris Darvas, left, and Robin Bowen cheer on their firm s boat as co-workers
board the 40- foot-long vessel to compete on the Maumee. HCR Manor- Care Inc. employees Chris Darvas, left, and Robin Bowen cheer on their firm s boat as co-workers board the 40- foot-long vessel to compete on the Maumee.
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The event was about racing and much more.

There was face painting, food, live music, and a children s area with inflatable attractions, games, and a craft tent.

The Chinese Association of Greater Toledo provided cultural activities, including martial arts demonstrations.

I love bringing together groups of people who you wouldn t normally see together, said Gretchen LeBoutillier, the event coordinator for Partners in Education.

The race is growing in popularity.

Ms. LeBoutillier said last year s race drew 39 teams; this year s race had five more.

Our audience has grown. People see it s a great festival, she said.

Melissa Hilt, a neonatal flight nurse for Toledo Children s Hospital and a member of the University of Toledo department of pediatrics Pediatric Paddlers team, said the race was competitive.

A lot of us get really into it. It s a great time, she said.

Dr. David Krol, chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Toledo college of medicine, said the event builds camaraderie and it s for a great cause.

Jane Hamilton, of Toledo, brought her grandchildren, Emmy, 9, and Matthew, 6, to the festival to watch their parents race for the Silgan Can Co. s Can-Do Crew team.

I m very impressed. It involves so many people, she said.

While some worked hard in the races, others, such as Nancy Bartram, of Toledo, relaxed with a massage at the Chinese association s booth.

It s incredibly relaxing. I could close my eyes and go to sleep, she said.

Though the event ran smoothly, a few boats encountered some difficulty.

The WSPD-AM 1370/Clear Channel s boat, Radio Waves, steered into Blazing Paddles, the firefighters boat.

Radio Waves flipped over.

The Rowing Titans, KeyBank and St. John s Jesuit High School s boat, also flipped over.

No one was hurt in any of the incidents.

It happens; steering is very tough, said Pat Nicely, a Toledo fire captain.

Contact Meredith Byers at:mbyers@theblade.comor 419-724-6101.



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