Staff Photo by Gillian Bolsover
Lee Gates walks up the stairs after competing in the Dragon Boat races with the North Shore Fellowship team during the Dragon Boat Festival at Chickamauga Lake Saturday. The park was packed with festivalgoers who came to compete, watch the races, visit the rides and games, or just enjoy the weather.
On your mark, get set ... race!
Saturday was a day for sportsmanship and teamwork as thousands of onlookers, volunteers and team members flocked to the Chickamauga Dam for the third annual Dragon Boat Festival.
Forty-nine teams, many made up by employees from local businesses and outreach programs, raced 250 meters down the Tennessee River for a chance to bring home a title.
“I think the biggest change is people now know what the Dragon Boat Festival is,” said Betsy Taylor, chief development officer at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital. “We’ve had a lot of questions over the years (about) what we are doing and what are these canoes and what is this event going to be like. And now the folks that came the first year, they’re back for the third.”
While there was a lot of friendly competition going on, the teams’ main focus was to raise money for T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital.
“People just love to sweat, they love being with their friends and they love the collaboration,” Mrs. Taylor said. “It’s just a great event.”
Dr. Matthew Good, a pediatrician and the team captain for Pediatric Paddlers, said this is the third year his team has participated.
“We’ve done it each year, and each year we get a little bit better,” he said.
Dr. Good’s team is made up of employees from the third floor of T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital, including several nurses, doctors, pediatric residents and other hospital staff members.
“We work together every day in the hospital taking care of kids, so it’s pretty easy to be a team and transfer that out to the water,” Dr. Good said.
As for the actual paddling, Mrs. Taylor said the teams face many challenges.
“More than anything else, it’s more about choreography and teamwork than it is about physical strength,” she said. “If your team can work together and can paddle with the same stroke, then you’re going to do real well with this race. A lot of corporations and center groups use this as a team-building exercise.”
In addition to the races, attendees enjoyed festival activities on the shore.
Many participants even brought their dogs out to enjoy the warm, sunny weather, and several young children kept themselves entertained with inflatables.
While some teams had little rowing experience, others enjoyed the sport in their spare time.
Pat Carver, co-president of the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club and a member of team Canoe Wong Foo, said her teammates get out on the water every weekend.
“Raising money for the hospital, of course, is always the primary goal,” Ms. Carver said. “But we’re paddlers, and we just want to show that we can all paddle together as one.”
According to Mrs. Taylor, T.C. Thompson serves more than 36,000 children a year.