Chattanooga Now Hear the dragon boats roar

Chattanooga Now Hear the dragon boats roar

May 20th, 2011 by Lisa Denton in Chattnow Outabout


What: Fifth annual Children's Hospital Dragon Boat Festival.

When: 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: TVA Park at Chickamauga Dam, 3001 Kings Point Road.

Admission: Free.


2011 TEAMS

Nicknames are optional but often tell the story behind the team, such as the Paper Dragons of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Here are 10 others we like.

* Adman Electric: Flux Capaddlers

* Children's Hospital Emergency Department: Traumatizers

* Community team: Strokes of Genius

* Community team: Tipsy Canoe

* Erlanger Women East: Swamp Storks

* Lectrus: Blazing Paddles

* Moe's Southwest Grill: Moe Moe Moe Yo Boat

* Regional Obstetrical Consultants: ROC da Boat

* Sodexo: Sync or Swim

* Southern Champion Tray: Simply Oarsome

With no national teams competing this year, the Children's Hospital Dragon Boat Festival returns to its roots as a true community festival, says its organizer, Penny Behling of Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing.

Forty-seven corporate and community teams have signed on for this year's daylong competition at Chickamauga Dam. Adrenaline has been pumping since last Friday when Behling arrived with her fleet of eight 46-foot-long dragon boats. Today is the eighth day of practice before teams show how well they've mastered the skills they'll need for Saturday's competition.

No matter how the day turns out for the competitors, Behling said the event is a win-win for both Erlanger Children's Hospital and the community at large. Chattanooga's race day has an esprit de corps not every city can match.

"Chattanooga is one of the largest festivals per capita in the country," she said. "I don't think people [in other cities] get nearly as excited about dragon-boat festivals as they do here."

Although the number of teams is down from last year's 61, Behling said pledges have surpassed the total given in 2010 when $75,000 was raised. That's impressive in a flagging economy and in the aftermath of the devastating storms three weeks ago, she said.

"The fact that they have stepped up and given to Children's Hospital despite a tornado and despite the teams being down really says a lot about this community," she said.

Spectators will enjoy not just the racing but the spectacle in the park. In addition to cultural entertainment, music and food, teams will decorate their tents, wear their dragon apparel and cheer throughout. Also, each team's drummer - the person who sets the rhythm for the 20 paddlers powering the boat - will take part in a parade for the crowd to choose the best dressed.

"It's almost like a Halloween party, company picnic and dragon-boat race all in one," Behling said.

Although paddle power is paramount, such details as the team's nickname can be a powerful intimidation factor, she added.

Perhaps that helps explain how the Heritage Funeral Home team sailed to victory in 2009 and 2010. After all, who wouldn't give The Pallbearers a pass when they see them bearing down behind them?

"They may be the most feared team in the whole festival," Behling said, laughing.