The Dragon Boat Festival races back to Superior

51 teams signed up for the main event this year.
Published: Aug. 26, 2023 at 3:44 PM CDT
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SUPERIOR, WI. (Northern News Now) - The 21st annual Dragon Boat Festival returned to Superior this weekend.

The festival can trace its origins back to ancient traditions from over 2,000 years ago.

This year 51 teams signed up for the main event, a series of 400-meter races across the marina at Barker’s Island.

The amateur teams comprised of 20 paddlers, a drummer, and a steersperson test their strength in the water.

“It’s a short amount of time that you’re paddling but you’re paddling hard. It’s just stroke after stroke and it wears you out quick,” said Jasen Elcombe, captain of the Salvation Army and a six-time participant in the race.

Elcombe said the event is not about the competition but about the community.

“Today, the main thing is just to have fun,” said Elcombe. “Just say, have a great experience, have a lot of fun with friends, family, volunteers, and just be able to be a part of a huge, awesome event like this.”

In addition to the excitement, the Dragon Boat Festival raises money for a different organization each year.

This year’s organization is the 23rd Veteran who provides programming for veterans with trauma returning to civilian life.

Officials of the event said organizing begins months in advance.

“All the different aspects of planning, the timing, the race logistics, recreation retail over there, all the volunteer scheduling, it’s a lot,” said Dan Blank, co-chair of the festival. “It’s a lot. It’s a lot of fun when you see the smiles of people getting off the boats after the races and all the friends and family out here, it’s a blast.”

The Dragon Boat Festival aims to build community one stroke at a time, something Elcombe and his Salvation Army crew strive for.

“It helps to show you how the Salvation Army is active in Superior, WI and in the community,” said Elcombe. So we just try to, you know, be a part of what’s going on and having a good time.”

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