Dragon Boat racing is back in Blue Island this summer, with a new, larger venue, more events, and some great additions like craft beer, food and merchandise. The 2nd Annual Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival is scheduled for Sat., June 3, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., MWRD Waterfall Park along the Cal-Sag, and includes a welcome reception at Rock Island Public House the evening of June 2 after team practices, and an after-party June 3 at the Blue Island Beer Company.
“Last year, we fell in love with the atmosphere surrounding the first dragon boat festival hosted here in Blue Island,” said festival organizer Kevin Brown. “It’s so much more than a great day on the water. It’s a celebration of sport, community and fun, interesting people. We also loved that newcomers to the sport can compete with little training or instruction – if you can paddle, you can race in a dragon boat!”
Dragon boats are propelled by teams of paddlers, and the sport of dragon boat racing dates back more than 2000 years to China. The races have become a popular watersport. Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival activities begin with team practice sessions with instructors on Thurs., June 1 and Fri., June 2, 4 to 8 p.m. with Great White North Dragon Boat Racing, which also provides the dragon boats, paddles and life jackets for participants.
Festival activities will be held all day on Saturday and include the dragon boat races, awards ceremony, craft beer village featuring the Southland’s best food and craft beer, and after-party at the Blue Island Beer Company.
“Paddlers and spectators will be blown away by the incredible views of the races from the new Chatham Street pedestrian bridge – part of the forthcoming Cal-Sag trail connection through Blue Island – as well as the proximity to Blue Island’s beautiful historic uptown and all that Olde Western Avenue has to offer,” Brown said.
Individual and team registration is underway at www.chicagodragonboats.com, as well as a description of available festival sponsorship opportunities – many of which include team entries for businesses and the community organization, school, or church of their selection.
“We’ve structured this event to highlight what we feel is the most exciting thing dragon boat racing brings to our communities,” says Brown. “Dragon boat racing is about pride, it’s about inclusivity, it’s about teambuilding and communication skills, being outside and being physical – and almost anyone can do it.”