Long, colorful dragon boats won’t race across the Maumee River this summer.
The 17th annual Dragon Boat Festival set for July 21 has been canceled, in part because of ongoing construction at International Park.
“Our concern is we really use every inch of that space,” said Michelle Klinger, executive director of Partners in Education, which hosts the event.
The festival is a fund-raiser for the nonprofit, which develops programming for local public schools.
In years past, Partners in Education has raised $30,000 through dragon boat races to put toward programming. Ms. Klinger said she isn’t worried about losing donations, though, because many sponsors have committed to funding programs directly.
The work at International Park is part of a $25 million Toledo Waterways Initiative project to build an underground sewage storage basin. Abby Arnold, the city’s deputy chief of staff, acknowledged the construction has limited the park’s use but said the work is on schedule with a substantial completion date of Nov. 30.
“It has had an impact significantly on that park,” she said.
The Dragon Boat Festival typically draws about 1,800 participants and more than 1,000 spectators, Ms. Klinger said. Teams race the Hong Kong-style boats on the Maumee, and the event showcases Chinese culture and promotes summer learning.
Tennessee-based Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing LLC helps put on the festival, and Ms. Klinger said their representatives raised concerns last year about algal blooms impacting the race. She said concerns about the algae factored into the decision to take a year off from the festival.
Ms. Klinger said organizers searched for other areas they could use along the Maumee, but said the other sites under consideration either had choppy water or not enough room for spectators to sit.
“There really was no other place along the river where we could do something for the event,” she said.
City spokesman Ignazio Messina said the Kapszukiewicz administration will work with Partners in Education to ensure the group has successful events in the future.
“It’s a really fun event. It’s good for Toledo, it’s good for them, and it brings people together downtown,” he said. “Downtown and just across the river in East Toledo are becoming really vibrant neighborhoods, and we love that the dragon boat races are a part of that.”
He added Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz has taken a strong stance against agriculture runoff that causes harmful algal blooms.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that people take this environmental concern very seriously,” Mr. Messina said.
Ms. Klinger said Partners in Education is reassessing the timing and location of the Dragon Boat Festival for next year, but wants it to continue in some form. Part of this year’s hiatus will be spent looking at how the event could tie in with other summer offerings because of how popular downtown has become.
“We want to collaborate, not compete, with things that ProMedica might be doing in Promenade Park, things going on in Hensville, and events at the Huntington Center,” she said.
The organization also plans to host two summer learning festivals in underserved neighborhoods, she said. One is set for June 16 at Friendship Park Community Center in North Toledo. The other will be in collaboration with Agape Second Chance, though a date and location have not yet been set.
“The idea is really to help families find ways to learn all year round to prevent summer learning loss for their students,” Ms. Klinger said.
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