DRAGON BOATS: All in the family
Chris Slocum isn’t shy about saying “I’m definitely afraid of water.” It only seems odd because she’s standing on shore at Barkers Island just after a dragon boat practice.
Those fears drip away with each stroke she takes in a boat that includes her daughter, Kasey, who is quite the opposite.
“She loves the water,” Chris Slocum said.
“It’s something we can do together,” she said. “You share a bond.”
There are seven parent-child combinations on the two teams that will be competing for Blue Water Paddling as part of the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival in Superior that begins tonight on the island.
Blue Water is a new incarnation, a spinoff of the Duluth Boat Club that encourages dragon boat participation throughout the open water season, not just for the charity event in Superior each August. Anyone can join — team or no team — and create those bonds Slocum talked about.“It’s something anyone can do,” Kasey Slocum said as her group rested after a practice row Tuesday night. “They just threw me in the boat.”Not that she wasn’t itching to go. Her mother has been dragon boating for six years, three years before her daughter climbed in. Kasey plans to try out for U.S. National under-23 crew to take part in next year’s world championship.Mark Vaughan said he couldn’t imagine finding better friends than those he’s met in the club. He paddles on the Slocum team with his daughter, Caitie.Anne-Marie Pilon was looking for an activity for herself and her two daughters, Rose-Anne and Juliette Sauve. They moved to Duluth from Montreal this year and are new to dragon boats.“I really like it, it’s a good workout,” Pilon said. It took a while to get used to rowing. The family was accustomed to leisurely canoe paddling and not the digging and precision required in a dragon boat.“It’s a good sport for Duluth because you can’t swim,” Pilon said to laughs of agreement from her group. “It’s too cold.”Agreement from Chris Slocum: “It’s a way to enjoy the water without going in.”Juliette Suave said the paddling has been good to keep her in shape for volleyball this fall.Blue Paddle’s big weekend is, of course, the Lake Superior event. But groups have also gone to races in Bemidji and Thunder Bay. They will go to Oshkosh in September.That’s all icing on a long season. The cake is this weekend on Barkers Island.“This is what we’ve trained for since the ice broke,” Chris Slocum said.
The Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival is a fundraising event for local Rotary clubs. Spectators are encouraged to cheer on more than 2,000 paddlers today and Saturday. Here is the lineup: Tonight - 5:15 p.m.: Navy Leapfrogs parachuting demonstration- 6 p.m.: Team parade- 6:30 p.m.: Opening ceremony including “Waking the Dragon” and paddlers’ pledge- 7-8:30 p.m.: Main stage entertainment from Mynx- 8:45 p.m.: Fireworks- 9 p.m.: Closing entertainment, Crescent Moon
Saturday - 7-11 a.m.: Pancake breakfast- 8 a.m.-5 p.m.: Races- 10 a.m.: Craft fair opens, roving magician, activities for children- 11a.m.: Sterling Silver Dance & Twirling show- Noon: Rose petal ceremony- 1 p.m.: All About Music singing group- 2 p.m.: Korean swords demonstration- 3 p.m.: Mark Rubin music- 5:55 p.m.: Final heats- 7 p.m.: Awards and closing ceremony- 7 p.m.: Party at Barkers Island Inn with music by the Circuit Breakers