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Dragon boat festival a success

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The fourth-annual Boundary Waters Dragon Boat Festival was held here Saturday.

The Rainy Lake Highlanders opened the event with a musical march, followed by Dave Miller singing the Canadian and U.S. national anthems.

After the ceremonial tradition of “dotting the eye” on the dragon, Lincoln Dunn, training supervisor with New Gold, was announced as the winner of the naming-the-mascot contest.

The winning name was “Guoji” (pronounced as “Who-tsi”), meaning international in Chinese.

The individual Mandarin characters that make up the word translate to country or boundary.

The festival featured seven teams this year, including a variety of veteran paddlers and dragon boat rookies.

Last year’s champs, the MNR’s “Smokey Bears,” successfully defended their trophy in a tight final race against the New Gold Nuggets.

The “Smokey Bears” finished with a time of 01:00.760 while New Gold was just a second behind (01:01.890).

Captain Sydney Chalifoux was on the team last year when they won and said she was happier with the effort this time around.

“It feels pretty great,” she said of the victory.

“We had a bit of a rivalry with New Gold, as well,” Chalifoux added.

“We work with them a lot so we were glad to see them here and we were really glad to see that there was a final against them, as well.”

Chalifoux added there was a more personal achievement for the team as they were able to beat their time from last year.

“I’ll definitely be back out next year,” she enthused.

“Hopefully, we can pull it all together again last minute, but we’re just really glad to spend the day outdoors and meet a lot of new people,” Chalifoux stressed.

“I think this is a great team event for anyone who’s interested.”

The Fort Frances Dental Centre’s “Dragon’s Breath” also put up a tough fight—placing third with a time of 01:03.760.

Various vendors and artisans also had tents set up Saturday around the Sorting Gap Marina.

They included Boston Pizza, the United Native Friendship Centre, and the La Verendrye Hospital Auxiliary, along with three young girls raising money for the “I Am Awesome” retreat.

Although the festival was cut short due to inclement weather in the afternoon, organizer Jenny Greenhalgh said it couldn’t have gone better.

“It was an amazing success. It was a really good time,” she enthused.

“Everybody socializes and paddles really hard. . . .

“Those who win, win and those who don’t, don’t,” Greenhalgh added. “[But] we still have a really good time.

“It’s really all about raising money and raising spirits in the community.”

Greenhalgh, who is president of the local Boundary Waters Dragon Boat Club, is sure the festival will go again next year.

Yohan Tierney, a member of the “22Dragons” dragon boat club in Montreal, was on hand here all week to help with both practices and the festival itself.

Tierney coached a lot of the teams and offered tips on technique leading up to race day.

He said he was impressed with the locals and their passion for the sport.

“Everyone here has a lot of spirit and the fact that they have a last-place team award is really great,” Tierney noted.

“It’s actually really impressive,” he added. “This town really has an appreciation for dragon boats.”

Tierney also said helping out at the festival was an easy task.

“The organization here from Jenny is incredible and for us at ‘22D,’ coming here and working with these people was phenomenal,” he enthused.

“This town is pretty awesome. I mean that, really.”

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