This summer the Loch Ness Monster is no longer the most powerful creature in the lake. Teams of racers are joining together to be a part of Chautauqua’s third annual Lake Dragon Race.
“It’s more about the community than the race,” said Heather Nolan, the Finance and Outreach Manager of the Chautauqua Lake Association. “It’s about getting everyone out on the lake. This is an event for everyone. Even the people who would normally never go; even the people who only come once a year.”
Dragon boat racing is a sport that dates back more than 2000 years, and originated in Southern China. Each boat features an ornate majestic dragon figurehead. Scheduled to take place on August 11th at Lucille Ball Memorial Park, nearly thirty boats will be competing in the race, each of which seats ten to twenty paddlers, a steer person to guide the boat, and a drummer in the bow who synchronizes the paddlers. “It takes the effort of every paddler to finish this course,” Nolan said. “It’s not just strength. You need coordination and teamwork to perform.”
Two divisions will compete, including a club team and a community division. “These are businesses, families. Groups of people who have coffee together every morning. They’re friends looking for a way to come together,” said Nolan. The community is also invited to cheer on the races, enjoy a pancake breakfast or whiteness the opening ceremony where the traditional Waking of the Dragons will take place.
Dragon boat festivals originated in China as a holiday to promote hygiene. People would use herbs to dispel diseases and viruses in the waterways. The Chautauqua Lake Dragon Boat Festival keeps up with this tradition by using funds to promote hygiene and maintenance of the lake.
“We want to make sure all different parties can enjoy the lake. The fisherman, the kayakers, the naturists and the homeowners. Most importantly, we want clear waterways so it’s safe,” said Nolan. The Chautauqua Lake Association has been responsible for cleaning shorelines, cutting weeds, and collecting water samples from the lake for the last sixty-five years.
In spirit of giving back to the community, the Greater Chautauqua Federal Credit Union will host a Rubber Ducky Race immediately preceding the Dragon Boat Race. Competitors can purchase a rubber duck to enter into the race for the chance to win 500$. This is a fundraiser to benefit the Chautauqua Lake Association as well as the Lakers Disabled Sled Hockey Team. The Lakers is an essential way of offering exercise and social interaction for those with mental or physical disabilities.
“We needed to do this,” said Nolan when asked about the inspiration behind the event. “We have great waterways and a beautiful lake. We knew we had to do something where we could get the entire community in a boat.”