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Dragon boat festival to return to Barker's Island

“We’re trying to go back to what summer is in Superior," festival chairman Ben Damberg said.

Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival practice near Barker's Island
Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival teams practice near Barker's Island in 2018.
File / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — The Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival is coming back this summer after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

The festival roars back to life Aug. 26-27 on Barker’s Island, with the Rotary Club of Superior taking the reins and a new charitable partner, 23rd Veteran, pitching in to offer more events to keep festivalgoers and paddlers busy throughout the day.

“They are with us full bore to host the dragon boats,” said Ben Damberg, festival chairman and member of the Rotary Club of Superior. “They had been the partner with us two years ago when the pandemic broke out and we had to make some tough choices.”

The Rotary Club of Superior is hosting this year’s festival.

People who can’t drum up the 22-member team to paddle in the competition this year will be able to participate in the dragon boat races, said Mike Waldron, executive director of 23rd Veteran, which helps military members and veterans who have experienced trauma recover hope and happiness. He said a boat for individuals without a team will also be available.

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“We’re going to get as many boats as we can,” Damberg said. “Our goal is 70 boats this year.”

In addition, a couple 5K fun runs, tug-of-war competitions, a live DJ and emcee for the race are all part of this year’s event, Waldron said.

“You don’t have to paddle to have fun,” he said.

The beer tent and food trucks will also be on-site to slake thirst and hunger during the fundraising festival.

Proceeds from on-site sales during the festival help the Rotary Club of Superior with its charitable giving and fundraising helps 23rd Veteran serve military members and veterans.

Since its inception in 2002, the event has raised more than $1.3 million to support charitable organizations in the Twin Ports.

This year, Waldron said the No. 1 thing that 23rd Veteran is contributing to the festival is the online portal that will allow people to register, take care of waivers and fundraise from home.

“We’re trying to go back to what summer is in Superior,” Damberg said.

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Registration for this year’s dragon boat festival is now open for racers, volunteers and sponsors at superiordragons.org .

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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