Angelica Diokno, right, beats a drum to get her team from Harbor rowing together.
Overcast skies didn’t stop thousands from camping out along the Maumee River in downtown Toledo on Saturday for a bit of dragon watching.
Partners in Education held Toledo’s 13th annual Dragon Boat Festival, where rowing teams race down the river in long boats ornamented with dragon heads and tails, ending at the finish line in International Park.
“We had some rain showers, but it didn’t dampen moods,” said Jennifer Kephart, the executive director of Partners in Education, who said more than 5,000 people attended the festival.
This year the race had a major upset. BP-Husky, the event’s presenting sponsor, unseated last year’s champions from St. John’s Jesuit High School, sponsored by KeyBank.
“It’s the first new champion in nine years,” Ms. Kephart said. “They were ecstatic.”
Teams must raise $2,000 to participate and participating sponsors of various levels contribute additional funds. The money goes toward supporting Partners in Education’s programs, such as tutoring and College Coach, which pairs students with coaches who mentor their progress from fifth grade through their sophomore year of college.
“It’s focusing thought on the kids of our community,” Chuck Stocking, a Partners in Education trustee, said about the festival. “So many need an adult who cares about them.”
He praised parents who are involved in their children’s lives and businesses that he said care about education and donated.
The HCR ManorCare team settles into the dragon boat before the vessel heads to the starting line.
Last year the proceeds, including revenue from tent rentals, donations, and vendors, was $30,000. This year the festival came together more quickly, Ms. Kephart said.
“Ideally a $20,000 net would be successful given the time-frame this year,” she said.
In addition to the spirit of competition, for rowers the event is about fun, culture, and community.
“It’s a fun day for everybody. We just get to hang out,” said Matt Brixey, captain of the Toledo Firefighters Blazing Paddles team.
He said the team has finished second the last two years.
Food, games, and entertainment, such as calligraphy and traditional tai chi performances provided by the Chinese Association of Greater Toledo, were offered. Olivia Onest, the association’s vice president, said the event is important for building a greater sense of community.
“When you live in a community, really, it takes everybody to participate, to get involved and help each other,” she said.
The park was filled with children.
Patrick ‘P.J.’ Bolden, center, rows vigorously with his teammates from Medical Mutual.
“We watched some people dance and we went in the bouncy house,” said Sophie Crawford, 9.
She was on her way to get ice cream and watch the next race with her sister, Lucy, 6, and mother, Angie Crawford, 33.
“Everyone came smiling and they left smiling,” Ms. Kephart said.