Season of the Dragons

first_imgSummer is reaching its end in the Flathead, but instead of going quietly into the colder weather, the valley will be alive with roars and the rhythmic thumping of drums on the lake: It’s the season for dragons.A horde will descend upon Flathead Lake on Sept. 13 and 14 for the Montana Dragon Boat Festival.The festival is a celebration of the summer and the transition to fall, and a celebration of the human spirit. Teams of 22 – a drummer, 20 paddlers and a steerer – work together in unison to propel their massive, 46-foot boats through the waves, hoping to edge out the competition at the finish line.This colorful and unique competition takes place in an idyllic Montana setting, with the crowd gathering on the lakeshore at the Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork to watch the teams paddle.It’s the third year for the dragon boat festival, and the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau is pleased with the event’s progress.Diane Medler, KCVB director, said there would be 74 teams participating in this year’s two-day event, with 24 those groups coming from Canada and about a dozen more from around the state and region. While there are fewer total teams participating this year, the event still has the pull the KCVB was hoping for.“Last year there were 91 teams. We have the same number of out-of-market teams, it’s the local teams that have decreased,” Medler said. “The point of our doing this is to bring the out-of-market teams to the Flathead.”The KCVB established the dragon boat races as one of its major annual events to draw in more visitors to the area, and it’s especially important during the fall shoulder season.Thousands of people have attended the past couple of events, and last year the festival extended to two days to account for its popularity.On Saturday, Sept. 13, the races start at 8:30 a.m., and there is an exhibition race at 4 p.m., featuring a 1,000-meter race – much longer than the typical races – that includes turning the unwieldy boats.The Saturday events will also include the breast cancer survivor race and ceremony at noon.Sunday’s noon exhibition race will feature kids, ages 13 and over, who signed up on Saturday. They will take to the giant dragons and receive a half-hour lesson before racing (there will be experienced paddlers aboard as well).As always, there is no gate admission needed to view the dragon boat races, and there will be food and beverage vendors on site. Medler encouraged visitors to wander through the teams’ tents as well, to enjoy the decorations and meet new people.“There are lots of competitive teams this year with all these traveling teams,” she said.Parking is available at the intersections of Highways 35 and 82, and costs $10. There will be shuttles running between the festival and the parking lot, as well as the Montana Trolley taking people from the festival into Bigfork and then to the parking lot.It’s a family-friendly event, Medler said, and attendees can bring chairs and blankets to sit on, and “hopefully sunscreen will be needed.”For more information, visit www.montana.racedragonboats.com. Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.last_img read more

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