Dragon boats breathe new life into Water Festival

bheffernan@islandpacket.comJuly 20, 2013 

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Festival arts and crafts market on the promenade.

  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Boat bingo on local waters.

  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Children's Day with shows, rides, games and prizes. Free.

  • Noon to 4 p.m.: Shrimp boat tours. Free.

  • 6 to 9 p.m.: Teen Dance with D.J. Jeff. No entry after 8 p.m. Ages 13-17 only. ID required. Tickets: $12.

The 58th Annual Beaufort Water Festival marched on Saturday to a different beat than it had in the past.

Afternoon crowds lining the Henry C. Waterfront Park sea wall could hear costumed drummers thwacking out the pace for dragon boat rowers.

This is the first year such racing has been part of the Water Festival, but it's far from a new sport.

The rowboat racing dates back two millennia to southern China.

The watersport got a new burst of life in North American in the 1990s among a group of people who know something about getting a new life -- breast cancer survivors.

Jan Kuhn had beaten breast cancer twice before she started the Healing Dragons team in Charlotte five years ago. The team was one of 23 to compete Saturday.

Kuhn said the camaraderie and support of the 22-person row teams are more important than any race outcome.

"We are just here to be together, to stay strong and to show that even though you've had cancer, you can still be out there living your life," she said.

Greg Rawls, president of DragonBoat Beaufort, said the event is a great addition to the festivities this year.

It adds variety to the event schedule, promotes breast cancer awareness and provides support to survivors and care-takers, he said.

Hope you didn't miss: The final heat of the raft race tournament. Port Royal's Pender Brothers edged out the Charleston team, Roaring, to keep the raft race crown in Beaufort County for another year.

Better not miss: The Teen Dance with D.J. Jeff at the Waterfront Park -- that is, if you're a certain age. The dance is only open to those aged 13-17. Gates open at 6 p.m. today and the music stops at 9 p.m. Don't arrive unfashionably late -- no one will be allowed in after 8 p.m. Tickets: $12.

Volunteer of the day: Sherry Stacks, 60, Beaufort.

Stacks, a nurse at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, volunteered as timekeeper for the raft races Saturday for her 12th consecutive year.

She said she used to paddle for the hospital's team. "When I couldn't row anymore, I just started judging it," she said.

"I just think it's just a great community event that locals participate in," she said.

Socially speaking: @bftshoegirl, Jean Cory Fowlkes. "It is waterfestival and I think next year we need @CandiceGlover in concert!! How about it?? ... "

The competitive edge: In the badminton tournament, Breeze won the junior doubles title, followed by O'Neil's and then the Tornados. UPS won the teen doubles, followed by FedEx and Breeze. In the mixed doubles, What A Raquette finished on top, followed by Hollywood and Swing Dances. Promislow won the seniors division, followed by Zapper and Picone.

In the raft race, Pender Brothers was first, followed by Shipfaced and Roaring Rapids. Pender Brothers won the Fastest Raft on the River.

In the children's toad fishing tournament, Brody Gurley won the ages 1-4 division, followed by Wyatt Donavan and Jackson Carter. Ava Farrow was the ages 4-8 champion, followed by Nathan Reed and Ryan House. Jimmy Davenport won the ages 8-12 division. Zoe Reed was second, and Craig Coulberton was third.

Allie Bazemore's 32-inch shark was the largest fish. Trenton Lafontain had the largest toad fish. And 4-year-old Asa Godown's was the youngest toad fish angler with the most toads.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian

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