Sunday, August 2, 2015

More ‘dragon boat’ teams sought

The third-annual Boundary Waters Dragon Boat Festival once again is slated to take place July 1 at the Sorting Gap Marina here and organizers are looking for more teams to participate.
“We need lots and lots of teams,” said committee member and site co-ordinator Cathy Tysz, noting the event is going to be very similar to last year’s in terms of the venue, set-up, and schedule.

“We’re trying to build on it,” she stressed. “We’re trying to make it a little bit bigger.”
The committee is attempting to do that by making this year’s festival an international event and including teams from International Falls, Mn.
“Their town council has issued a challenge to our town council to paddle against each other,” Tysz noted.
Fort Frances council has accepted the challenge and now is looking for staff and town volunteers to join the team.
“And [International Falls] has a couple possible teams at the high school that want to challenge our high school—hockey team, football team,” Tysz added.
“So we’re trying to involve International Falls because hopefully we’d like to, down the road, make it a two-day festival and have Duluth and Bemidji here.”
Tysz recalled when the Boundary Waters Dragon Boat Festival was first held in 2012, they had eight teams participate, along with one food vendor on site and about 750 spectators.
Then last year, they ended up with 13 teams, four food vendors, and roughly 1,500 spectators.
“So each year we just hope to make it a little bit bigger,” she remarked, adding organizers are hoping to have 18-20 teams this year.
And Tysz stressed anyone can join in.
“There is absolutely no skill level involved whatsoever,” she explained, saying people just sit in a boat and paddle.
“There are 16 in a boat—15 paddlers and one drummer,” Tysz noted. “And all ages can take part . . . we had a couple 11- and 12-year-olds last year and one lady that was 74.
“It’s a sport for everyone.”
She added those under the age of 14 do need to sign a waiver.
Meanwhile, to help make this year’s event bigger, the committee will be adding a second boat to its fleet.
“[With] part of our Trillium Foundation funding, we were able to buy a new boat and trailer,” Tysz said.
“We’ve got a team in Toronto picking up that boat and trailer,” she added. “They will be back on June 10, so shortly after that we will be putting both boats in the water.
“So with the second boat, we have room for more teams.”
Tysz said the committee is hoping that, like last year, local businesses will challenge each other.
“Last year we had West End Motors challenge Sunset Country Ford, and the Dental Clinic challenged the Animal Clinic,” she recalled.
“We’d love to see more.”
However, those interested in paddling—but who don’t have a team—still are welcome to register.
To join as an individual costs $35/person while a full team of 15 people (such as a business) is $525.
Tysz added the Dragon Boat Festival also is a great family sports day.
“It’s Canada Day—you got mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, grandkids,” she remarked.
“We could get total families to go up against each other and challenge each other.”
Registration can be done online at or by dropping by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce office (located above the Northern Lights Credit Union).
“They don’t have to pay in advance; they can pay at the site,” Tysz noted, adding the group 22 Dragons once again will be coming to assist with the festival.
“They are a professional club that specializes in event planning and team-building,” she explained.
“So what they do is they teach us how.
“It’s one thing to paddle but it’s another thing to be a steersman,” she conceded.
“A steersman has to control the boat, especially on our waters with the rapids.”
She indicated they will come with a crew of four or five, and steer each one of the local boats for the races.
“And they set the course and set up the race schedule,” she added.
22 Dragons also will set up a practice schedule the week before the event, so that each team gets to practice at least once.
Tysz noted they’ve been fortunate with the weather the past two years and again are hoping for clear skies.
“A little cooler than last year would be great,” she remarked.
“We don’t need 32 C. Sunshine and 25 would be perfect.”
However, she noted the event still would go ahead if it rains.
“The only time [we would cancel] would be if there is lightning or if it’s too windy,” Tysz said.
“We had to cancel a couple of practices last year because the guys from 22 Dragons said they wouldn’t even put a boat of professionals in that water, never mind a bunch of rookies,” she recalled.
“We had gale force winds blowing in a couple days in advance.
“So if it’s really, really windy and there [are] white-cap rollers on the river, then it will be cancelled.”
For more information, call the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce at 274-5773.
Questions also can be e-mailed to or call Tysz at 274-2488.

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