TEMPE, Ariz. -- Dragon boat races take to the water this weekend in Tempe Town Lake, as the Dragon Boat Festival sails into town.
"We have about 80 teams coming out," says Keith Taylor, coach of the Arizona Gila Dragons team. "You've got to imagine 80 teams of 22 teams in a boat. We're going to run five boat heats, and it's actually exciting to see the boats compete."
The 11th Annual Arizona Dragon Boat Festival will feature competitive and recreational dragon boat races, vendors, and Asian and Pacific inspired talented entertainment. Races will include mixed, men’s and women’s, high school, collegiate, and corporate teams; as well as special interest teams such as Breast Cancer Survivors and Special Olympics.
Organizers say it's a great team-building exercise. "Team members are pretty helpful," says one participant, Mark, who's an Arizona native. "They jump right in. There are guys and gals who have been doing it for years. And they get with you, they partner you up, a 'newbie' with a veteran. And once you get into it, you're part of the team and it feels great."
Dragon Boat racing as an amateur water sport has its roots in an ancient folk ritual of contending villagers held over the past 2,000 years throughout southern China. While ‘competition’ has taken place annually for more than 20 centuries as part of religious ceremonies and folk customs, dragon boat racing has emerged in modern times as an international sport, beginning in Hong Kong in 1976.
11th Annual Arizona Dragon Boat Festival
Saturday-Sunday, March 22-23, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tempe Town Lake Marina on the North Shore Lake (south of the 202, between Mill Avenue and Rural Road)
Admission is free. Thousands of people are expected to attend. For information, visit: www.azdba.com
Volunteers, ages 14 and older are needed to help run the free festival. Duties include: team marshaling/boat ramp/kidz lair/runners/parking attendees and team shuttle drivers. Proceeds from the event will help benefit Special Olympics Arizona.