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The 2nd Annual Chautauqua Lake Dragon Boat Race will take place August 12 at the Lucille Ball Memorial Park in Celeron. Dragon Boat Racing began over 2,000 years ago in Southern China and is now one of the fastest growing team water sports. Racers are mostly locals from the Chautauqua area and also include visitors from Pittsburgh, Ithaca and Cornell.
Half of the total money raised will benefit the Chautauqua Lake Association (CLA), and the other half will go toward the Jamestown Lakers Disabled Special and Sled Hockey Team. Over $12,000 was raised last year, with $3,850 going to the CLA, $3,850 going to the sled hockey team, and the rest of the money going toward putting on the event. This year, the Greater Chautauqua Federal Credit Union (GCFCU) generously sponsored the event so 100% of the proceeds will go to the two organizations.
The Chautauqua Lake Rowing Association offered two training practice days on land, where team members sat on buckets and practiced rowing in sync with each other. They also showed videos regarding boat safety and for inexperienced teams to watch and learn how to row.
Heather Nolan, Finance & Community Relations Manager of the CLA, and Scott Schrecengost, Mayor of Celeron, are co-chairs for the Chautauqua Lake Dragon Boat Race. They make sure that every detail falls into place to ensure a successful race day. “It’s so much fun. From first-timers never being in a boat before to experienced club teams, we’re very excited for all of the boats,” Nolan said.
“Our goal is to try to get the whole community to enjoy the lake,” Nolan said. “It’s a good way to get those people who maybe have never been on the lake, or in a boat involved in a race, to see what the lake has to offer. It’s a beautiful lake and we would love to share that experience.”
“It’ll be a great event. It was a lot of fun last year,” said Doug Conroe, Executive Director of the CLA. “People really enjoyed it. The money goes to a good cause, and I’m glad it’s happening.”
How does it Work?
Each team makes up a 10-person rowing vessel. In 2016, 20 teams signed up to race, while so far this year 29 teams have registered for the fun. “We’re absolutely hoping for a big turn out,” Nolan said. “With nearly 30 boats, that’s 300 people plus, so we would love to see 500 people in the park.” A couple of spots are still open for anyone else interested, with no prior experience required.
One member of the team sits in the back of the boat to steer and direct orders. The drummers sit in the front of the boat and listens to those orders, drumming rhythmically to the strokes that the paddlers must follow. Two different divisions compete in the races–the experienced club teams and the novice teams. The experienced teams race every weekend all spring and summer, all over the world. Each team races three times and each race is 200 meters long, taking anywhere from two to four minutes to complete.
The first race determines the times between the boats, while brackets are made for the second and third races based on those times. “Racing the better teams makes you better, pushes you a little more, helps you with a better time,” Nolan said. Awards will be given for first, second and third place in both divisions.
An exciting opening ceremony will take place at 9 a.m., called the ‘Waking of the Dragon,’ which will kick-off the races. This awakening of the dragon typically happens at all dragon events. For this awakening, lake water is painted onto the eyes of the dragonhead to wake it from its sleep. This tradition is supposed to bring good luck for race day.
Meals on Wheels
Volunteers from Meals on Wheels will come to Celeron Park to provide a delicious pancake breakfast for their fundraiser from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. They will be serving yummy pancakes, sausages, hash brown potatoes, doughnuts, water and fresh fruit. “Our goal is to make sure that in Central and Southern Chautauqua County we get meals in the hands of senior citizens who need them, and more so now than ever to meet the need we have in our community,” said Barrie Yochim, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels of the Jamestown area.
For the first time in 50 years, the organization has a short waiting list of people who can’t take part in the Meals on Wheels program because of a lack of money available. “Thankfully to events like this we can take people off that list and get them the service that they need,” Yochim said.
Meals on Wheels receives money from the Federal and state governments and other foundations, but the money raised through these fundraising opportunities helps significantly. “If we didn’t have these fundraisers there would be a lot fewer people not getting meals in our community and people couldn’t start soon like we’re used to now,” Yochim said.
The GCFCU is eager to sell the thousands of rubber ducks that will get dumped from a large conveyer belt into the water. Foam noodles will guide the ducks as they drift along the lake, and the first person’s duck that reaches the shore wins $500, the second person’s duck wins $100 and the third person’s duck wins $50. The ducks are $5 each and sold at all four GCFCU offices in Dunkirk, Mayville, Jamestown and Falconer.
Great Lake North Dragon Boat is the vendor coming from Canada, and will provide the boats and some staffing, such as the steersperson. “The racing brings hundreds of people in our community together to raise money for two great organizations,” said Kelly Haaksma, Chief Executive Officer of the GCFCU. GCFCU has three boats registered and the Resource Center has four boats ready to go, with alternative racers as back-ups.
“It’s a great community event, it brings a lot of people together for a very fun time and it’s all about the team-building,” Haaksma said.
This year, a DJ will bring speakers so that people can hear music and announcements all over the park. Vendors will serve foods like wraps, sandwiches, burgers, sausages, and ice cream. For more information, visit chqdragonrace.org or check out CHQ Lake Dragon Race on Facebook.