THUNDER BAY - This year's thinned-out field of teams may be some of the last to race at the Dragon Boat festival.
2017’s event featured just six, and although teams remained in competitive spirits, the days of the dragon boats may be coming to an end.
“We’ve found we can not compete against all the great events that are happening in Thunder Bay,” said Volker Kromm, festival chair.
“Every year has been something else,” he said. “People in Thunder Bay love to celebrate and they’ve responded.”
Kromm, who has been in charge of the event since its inception in 1999, said the future focus will shift to a paddle sport festival that may include kayaks, canoes, and stand-up boards.
Kromm also said the potential draining of Boulevard Lake made for an uncertain future for the festival.
“Next year you’ll probably see the last year for regular dragon boats, but it will be primarily paddle sports,” he said.
However, the drop in popularity hasn’t diminished the competitive spirit of the Dragons of Hope.
“We get out on the water [to practice] as soon as the ice is off,” said Lorraine Madziuk.
Madziuk and the rest of her teammates all have a special similarity that keeps them driven.
“We’re all breast cancer survivors,” Madziuk said. “We’re in the same boat - literally. Since I’ve been with the team we’ve lost one of our paddlers. But that’s the nature of it, and we all come out and have a good time.”
For their team, the festival is a stepping stone for bigger races.
“It’s sort of the prelude for the festival in Superior, WI that we compete in,” she said. “I’m proud to say we are very competitive in that event.”
The group is now attempting to cross the pond for an even more ambitious journey.
The 2018 IBCPC Dragon Boat Festival will be held in Florence, Italy, and the paddlers have come up with a unique way to raise money for the trip.
“The ‘Boobie Boogie’ is going to be on September 30 at the CLE,” she said. “It’s going to start at 9 p.m., and we’re hoping everybody comes out and supports us.”
More information on the event will follow as the date approaches.