The Rotary Club of Peachtree City hosts a Dragon Boat Festival every year here in Peachtree City. Thankfully, this year Lake Peachtree has returned! And with it, the races of the ornate Dragon Boats are back in the center of town. Drake Field next to the public library was lined with artists, vendors, clubs, and performers. Irish dance, children’s juggling, taekwondo, and band performances filled the sunny day with a diverse celebration reflecting the citizens and culture of Peachtree City. But what was the real event of the day? The races of course!
Clothes Less Traveled joined in the fray with the team the Traveling Dragons. In their bright red shirts, this team of volunteers, staff, and friends raced with unity and heart. The values of CLT: positive attitude, teamwork, and togetherness above all else, gave this amateur racing team an advantage in the water just as it does in the thrift shop.
Beginning in the cool, still air of the morning, the Traveling Dragons won their first heat at 1 minute 9.8 seconds, 2 whole seconds faster than the second place winner, Sync Oar Swim. Winning by half a boat length is pretty unusual in this sport! The Mixed Team category (5 or less men in the boat) had few entries, so the second heat was another race between the same 4 teams, Warriors of Change, Chechecole, Sync Oar Swim, and our Traveling Dragons. At this point in the day the sun was beating down on all competitors, but thanks to their drummer, Mrs. Nancy, the Traveling Dragons paddled in sync to victory once more. This time the race lasted 1 minute 10.6 seconds.
If you have never seen a dragon boat race before, these times may seem short for a 200 meter race. Hopefully, next year you can join in the experience and see for yourself how exhausting one minute can really be! In addition to these amateur adult team races, there is one professional team race in the middle of the day to show us how it’s really done. These athletes were gliding past the finish line buoys in LESS than a minute! Other races included the first ever high school teams race, Special Olympics race, and mayor’s cup race. The sport of Dragon Boating is accessible to everyone and has proven health benefits to those recovering from cancers.
The modern wave of Dragon Boating began when breast cancer survivors were seeing improvements to their mental and physical well-being through the motion and team companionship experienced when paddling. This tradition of sisterhood was honored by a wonderful flower ceremony during the festival. During this time any racer, performer, or spectator could toss a pink carnation into Lake Peachtree to honor and bring awareness to those affected by cancer. The Rotary Club did a wonderful job organizing and executing this event. They went above and beyond to allow for this ceremony to be included in the festival, and for promoting so many local nonprofits who work for the good of our community.
Then came the end of the races, the finals! Here, the Traveling Dragons had to battle it out against teams from other divisions with similar finishing times. Instead of 4 boats racing at once, there were now 6, and the feeling of competition amped up to 11! At this time of day the wind was picking up, and the boats began blowing down the lake. This made lining up to start the race a real struggle, and it took longer than ever before. Tensions were high as frustration set in. Finally, the race officials shouted GO! and everyone launched off across the water. Hot and tired but filled with drive and determination, the Traveling Dragons had a photo finish. The colorful dragon heads were literally neck-and-neck. No one was sure which team won! When the official times were printed, the Traveling Dragons had come in second place to Panasonic Boom by .17 seconds. That’s right, they had less than a quarter of a second difference between first and second place. What a good race by all competitors involved! The Traveling Dragons had a finishing time of 1 minute 8.2 seconds, the fastest they had paddled all day.
“It was a real honor to be a part of the Traveling Dragons,” said Kara Jackson, this year’s team captain. “Everyone was out on the water to have fun and exemplify the sort of people we truly are at CLT. We are a unified team that takes on any challenge set before us with enthusiasm and joy. I knew we could win, but winning a gold AND a silver medal was proud moment for everyone. We can’t wait to be back next year!”
The 2019 Traveling Dragons Mixed Division Dragon Boat Racing Team:
Kara Jackson, Staff
Nancy Tompkins, Staff
Pam Reid, Board Member
Dirk Harker, Staff
Carl Ryberg, Staff
Cody Simmons, Volunteer
Joan Brotschul, Volunteer
Leslie DiGiovanni, Volunteer
Donna Shaw, Volunteer
Beth Vorosmarti, Volunteer
Frankie Davis, Staff
Kraig Cole, Volunteer
Thank you John Fortener and Peachtree City PowerCore Team for sponsoring the Traveling Dragons.