Nearly 50 teams compete in 2022 Dragon Boat Races
The Rotary Club of Superior and 23rd Veteran anticipate raising $50,000 for the community during the event.
Following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the races returned with a roar, drawing 49 teams of 22 people each to paddle a 450-meter course. Each team adds its own flair to the festivities with uniforms and team chants. The event is put on by the Rotary Club of Superior , along with this year's partner charity, 23rd Veteran.
Festival Co-Chair Charlie Johnson anticipates the event will exceed its goal of $40,000 to raise over $50,000. Since the start of the festival in 2002, $1.4 million has been raised, and it continues to be the biggest summer event in the city of Superior.
"From a proceeds standpoint, every penny goes back into the community through 23rd Veteran —which helps veterans who are struggling with PTSD to return to civilian life. They have been an amazing partner," said Johnson, who has been involved with the event for 10 years, two as co-chair. "It feels awesome to be back. Attendance is looking up. The parking lot is filled. It's the greatest feeling."
Saira Vanderwees, of Thunder Bay, Ontario, is the coach of the Dragons of Hope team that has paddled together in the festival for over 15 years. The team, made up of breast cancer survivors and supporters, participates in various paddling events across the globe.
"These ladies love to paddle together. They're great support for each other. That's what breast cancer survivors do. They're there for each other, and this is a great way to exercise and stay connected," Vanderwees said. "Everybody has quite the unique journey. I call them my women warriors because they've got the fight and it just feels good to paddle. They feel like they're thriving, surviving and they just keep going. They inspire all of us that don't have breast cancer, every single day. Their hard work, their dedication is amazing."
There were plenty of activities to keep onlookers busy throughout the two-day event, such as 5K fun runs, tug-of-war competitions, mini golf, live music as well as food and beer concessions. Attendees could also tour the S.S. Meteor , known as the last whale-back ship in the world, built in 1896.
"The feeling of having the event back this year is phenomenal after not having it for three years. To rebuild those connections, see our regular attendees, and make sure people are having fun," said Co-chair Ben Damberg.
Learn more about Lake Superior Dragon Boat Races at superiordragons.org.